Death toll from attack in Afghan capital climbs to 40

  • The death toll from an attack in the Afghan capital has climbed to 40, the Health Ministry said Tuesday, as police and rescue workers combed through the smoldering public welfare building where the gunmen held out for eight hours against security forces.
  • A suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden vehicle outside the building Monday before at least three gunmen stormed in, rampaging through the office complex hunting for victims.
  • No one immediately claimed the attack, but the Taliban and a local Islamic State affiliate have carried out a relentless wave of assaults on government targets in recent years.
A wounded Afghan man receives treatments at the Wazir Akbar Khan hospital after a car bomb attack in Kabul on December 24, 2018. - Militants detonated a car bomb before storming a Kabul government compound in an ongoing attack on December 24, officials and witnesses said, in the latest violence to rock the Afghan capital.
WAKIL KOHSAR | AFP | Getty Images
A wounded Afghan man receives treatments at the Wazir Akbar Khan hospital after a car bomb attack in Kabul on December 24, 2018. - Militants detonated a car bomb before storming a Kabul government compound in an ongoing attack on December 24, officials and witnesses said, in the latest violence to rock the Afghan capital.

The death toll from an attack in the Afghan capital has climbed to 40, the Health Ministry said Tuesday, as police and rescue workers combed through the smoldering public welfare building where the gunmen held out for eight hours against security forces.

A suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden vehicle outside the building Monday before at least three gunmen stormed in, rampaging through the office complex hunting for victims. Some employees managed to barricade themselves inside offices while police quickly evacuated more than 350 people.

Health Ministry spokesman Wahid Majro says 40 people were killed and 29 were wounded. An earlier, higher toll provided by the ministry included the attackers.

No one immediately claimed the attack, but the Taliban and a local Islamic State affiliate have carried out a relentless wave of assaults on government targets in recent years.

Abdul Jalil, an employee who spoke to reporters Tuesday from his hospital bed, was on the second floor when the gunmen entered.

"They came in and they were shooting at everyone. They were shooting at the closed doors. If anyone was there they shot them," he said.

Jalil said he jumped from a second-story window and broke his leg. He managed to crawl 50 meters (yards) to a perimeter gate where security personnel helped him to safety. Jalil said at least five of his co-workers jumped with him from the window, and he saw his boss jump from a third-story window.

Khalil Rahman, who escaped unhurt, said "it was a massacre. We didn't know where to run."

He told reporters outside the charred building that he still could hear the sounds of the screaming.

"It was chaos. Everyone was running everywhere, trying to hide. Why would they kill us? We are Muslims. We are not Russians or Americans," Khalil said. He said he worked for the same public welfare department during the five-year rule of the Taliban, which ended with the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.

"Even during the Taliban we were doing the same job," he said. "What is our sin?"