Huge Explosion Near Afghan Presidential Palace Shakes Kabul

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KABUL, Afghanistan — A huge explosion near the Afghan presidential palace early Wednesday caused panic in much of central Kabul, with windows blown out of buildings across a wide radius. An official said dozens of people had been killed or wounded.

The exact nature of the blast near Zanbaq Square, a crowded area in the Afghan capital that leads to the presidential palace as well as major foreign embassies, was not immediately clear.

Najib Danish, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said emergency personnel had removed 50 dead or wounded from the scene of the blast so far.

Pictures from the scene showed smoke and chaos, with bloodied people lying around as emergency personnel tried to evacuate victims. The area was cordoned off, and there was a heavy security presence, including forces from the United States-led coalition. Helicopters circled overhead.

Shopkeepers as far as a mile from the scene were seen sweeping glass from windows, as parents arrived to escort panicking children home from school.