A massive explosion rocked a highly secure diplomatic area of Kabul on Wednesday morning, killing at least 80 people, wounding hundreds more, and sending a huge plume of smoke over the Afghan capital. The target of the attack—which officials said was a suicide car bombing—was not immediately known but a public health ministry spokesman says most of the casualties are civilians and casualty figures are likely to rise, the AP reports. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the blast. Both the Taliban and ISIS have staged large-scale attacks in the Afghan capital in the past. The explosion in the Wazir Akbar Khan district took place at the peak of Kabul's rush hour, when roads are packed with commuters.
The neighborhood is considered Kabul's safest area, with foreign embassies protected by dozens of 10-foot-high blast walls and government offices, guarded by police and national security forces. CNN reports that the explosion hit near the German embassy. The blast was so heavy that more than 30 vehicles were either destroyed or damaged at the site of the attack and windows were shattered up to half a mile away. Last month, the Afghan Taliban announced the beginning of their spring offensive, promising to build their political base in the country while focusing military assaults on the international coalition and Afghan security forces. (Read more Kabul stories.)