KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A suicide bombing outside the Russian Embassy in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Monday killed two members of the embassy staff and at least one Afghan civilian in what Moscow denounced as an “unacceptable terrorist act.”
The blast went off at the entrance to the embassy’s consular section where Afghans were waiting for news about their visas, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry and the state news agency RIA Novosti. A Russian diplomat had emerged from the building to call out the names of candidates for visas when the explosion occurred, the agency said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, the latest in a series of attacks since the Taliban seized power a year ago, deposing a Western-backed government and capping their 20-year insurgency.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the explosion “a terrorist act, absolutely unacceptable.” He told reporters during his daily press conference call that “now the main thing that needs to be done is to get information from the ground about what happened to our diplomatic representatives.”
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the embassy has enhanced its security in the wake of the attack, and that “additional forces of the Taliban authorities,” including the Taliban-run intelligence service, were brought in.
“Let’s hope that the organizers of this terrorist act and its perpetrators will be punished,” Lavrov said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said the explosion went off right outside the entrance to the embassy’s consular section. “An unknown militant set off an explosive device,” the ministry said. “As a result of the attack, two members of the diplomatic mission were killed, and there are also casualties among Afghan citizens.”
Khalid Zadran, a spokesman for the Kabul police chief, said at least one civilian was killed and that 10 others were wounded.
Zadran said a suicide bomber was involved in the blast. He said the bomber was identified by security forces before he could get closer to the crowd waiting outside the embassy. He said security forces shot the assailant. It was not immediately clear if the attacker was able to set off the blast before being shot, or if the gunfire detonated the explosives.
Even though there was no immediate claim of responsibility, immediate suspicion fell on the extremist Islamic State group. The local affiliate of IS has stepped up attacks against the Taliban and civilians since the former insurgents took over the country last year as U.S. and NATO troops were in the final stages of their withdrawal.
Although Moscow has designated the Taliban as a terrorist group and outlawed it on Russian soil, the Taliban have representation in Russia and a delegation attended the recent St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said in late June that Russia is trying to build relations with the Taliban and that Russia wants to see all the ethnic groups in Afghanistan take part in running the country.
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