Attacker driving ambulance packed with explosives kills dozens in Kabul

Kabul blast: Death toll rises to 40

The attack - which shattered windows of surrounding buildings and caused some low-rise structures to collapse - struck a busy part of the city, close to a popular stationery market, the city's police headquarters and the offices of the European Union delegation and the High Peace Council.

An AFP reporter said he saw "lots of dead and wounded" people in a nearby hospital.

The Afghan Public Health Ministry spokesperson Mohammad Ismayeel Kawosi reportedly confirmed the casualty figures and stated that the injured persons have been rushed to different hospitals.

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The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack. The Council was set up in 2010 to negotiate with the insurgent group.

The bomber drove an ambulance packed with explosives in a crowded area near the city's old interior ministry building just before 1pm local time, officials said. The overwhelmed medical staff were seen struggling to treat bloodied men, women and children who were lying in corridors.

"It's a massacre", said Dejan Panic, a coordinator with the NGO Emergency, which operates at hospital in city that treated victims.

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Outside the hospital, people were carrying the injured on their backs and paramedics loaded several people into ambulances at once. "We're still counting dead bodies of last week's InterCon attack when a dozen plus killed & scores wounded in today's vehicle bombing on a public road", tweeted Lotfullah Najafizada.

The blast comes a week after gunmen attacked the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, killing at least 22 people during a 12-hour standoff with security forces.

Buildings hundreds of metres away were shaken by the force of the explosion, which left torn bodies strewn on the street nearby amid rubble and debris.

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"I strongly condemn the suicide auto bomb attack in the Afghan Capital".

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