U.S. President Donald Trump called for "decisive action" by all countries against the Taliban after a bomb attack claimed by the group in the Afghan capital of Kabul killed at least 95 people.
"I condemn the despicable car bombing attack in Kabul today that has left scores of innocent civilians dead and hundreds injured. This murderous attack renews our resolve and that of our Afghan partners," Trump said in a statement on January 27.
"Now, all countries should take decisive action against the Taliban and the terrorist infrastructure that supports them,” he added. “"The Taliban's cruelty will not prevail."
Afghan officials said at least 95 people were killed and 158 others wounded in the massive suicide car bomb attack in a crowded area in central Kabul in the early afternoon of January 27.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, claimed that the militant group was behind the attack, one of the biggest blasts to hit the war-torn city in recent years.
Kabul’s deputy police chief, Haqnawaz Haqyar, said the attack occurred in the Sadarat Square, near many government buildings, foreign embassies, and shops.
According to the Interior Ministry, the attacker used an ambulance to pass through the checkpoints.
“He passed through the first checkpoint saying he was taking a patient to the [nearby] Jumhuryat hospital and at the second checkpoint he was recognized and blew his explosive-laden car," deputy spokesman Nasrat Rahimi told the AFP news agency.
Eyewitnesses say that buildings hundreds of meters away were shaken by the force of the explosion.
In his statement, Trump said the “United States is committed to a secure Afghanistan that is free from terrorists who would target Americans, our allies and anyone who does not share their wicked ideology."
The United Nations also condemned the attack.
"On behalf of the United Nations in Afghanistan, I unequivocally condemn today’s attack in Kabul city in which scores of civilians were killed or injured," Tadamichi Yamamoto, head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said in a statement.
"Today’s attack is nothing short of an atrocity, and those who have organized and enabled it must be brought to justice and held to account," Yamamoto said.
The attack comes a week after an assault on the Intercontinental Hotel in the city that killed at least 25 people.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan, a suicide car bomber targeted security forces in the southern province of Helmand, wounding at least six people on January 27, local officials said.
Provincial government spokesman Omar Zwak said the suicide bomber tried to enter the Qari Posta security checkpoint in the Nad Ali district.
The attacker was spotted by security forces who opened fire on him, but he still managed to detonate his explosives, Zwak said. The Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack.
Afghan officials, along with Trump and other U.S. officials, have accused neighboring Pakistan of providing a safe haven for terrorists such as the Taliban or their Haqqani affiliates operating in Afghanistan, a charge Islamabad denies.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did not mention Pakistan specifically, but he condemned the "senseless" attack in Kabul and said there can be "no tolerance for those who support or offer sanctuary to terrorist groups."
Afghan government forces have struggled to fight the Taliban and other militant groups since U.S. and NATO troops formally ended their combat mission in 2014.
Trump has committed to stepping up the U.S. military's engagement in Afghanistan, pledging thousands more U.S. troops without setting deadlines.
Trump has said he wanted to shift from a time-based approach in Afghanistan to one based on conditions on the ground.
With reporting by dpa AFP, tolonews.com, Reuters, AP