A blast at the Taliban’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kabul, Afghanistan, as employees were leaving for the day resulted in multiple causalities.
“I’m here at the Ministry,” Ahmadullah Muttaqi, an official from the Taliban’s office of the first deputy prime minister, said of Wednesday’s blast, according to CBS News. “A suicide bomber tried to enter the Ministry but was identified by security forces and blew himself up.”
The attack happened at the main entrance of the ministry building at about 4 P.M. local time in Kabul’s diplomatic district, with a spokesperson for Kabul police telling CBS News the timing “unfortunately resulted in casualties.”
Images circulated on social media showed multiple people on the ground in front of the building’s entrance, but security teams first reaching the area could not give an initial estimate the amount of casualties from the blast.
“It was a powerful blast and then gunfire,” a witness, who identified himself as Enayat, told CBS News by phone. “When I came out, I saw many dead bodies lying on the road.”
Reports circulated earlier Wednesday saying the blast occurred while the Taliban’s foreign minister was in a meeting with China’s ambassador to Afghanistan. However, Qahar Balkhi, a spokesman for the ministry, told CBS News those reports were inaccurate.
The attack comes after the Taliban reached a deal last week with China for a Chinese company to drill for oil in the country’s Amu Darya basin, another sign of deepening ties between the Taliban and the Chinese Communist Party.
However, Chinese officials working in Afghanistan have faced security concerns, including an ISIS-K attack on a Kabul hotel last month that resulted in severe injury for five Chinese nationals.
The Taliban has vowed that security is “guaranteed” for Chinese citizens and other foreigners in the country, but has been under increased pressure to follow through on that promise as ISIS-K, an offshoot of the Islamic State operating in Afghanistan, continues to plot and carry out attacks across the country.
In recent months, the group has claimed responsibility for an attack on a checkpoint at Kabul’s military airport that killed several people and a suicide bombing targeting Russian diplomats that resulted in the death of 20 people, including two Russians.
It was not immediately clear if Wednesday’s attack was carried out by ISIS-K, but Faran Jeffery, the deputy director and head of the South Asia terrorism desk at the Islamic Theology of Counter Terrorism, believes such attacks will continue to increase.
“I definitely expect… similar attacks in the future, against the interests of countries that are attempting to forge close relations with the Taliban regime,” he told the South China Morning Post earlier this week. “[ISIS-K] has referred to China’s communist godless nature… its oppression of Uyghur Muslims and its relationship with the Afghan Taliban as legitimate reasons to attack its interests in Afghanistan.”