KABUL -- The "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) claimed responsibility Wednesday (January 11) for a suicide bombing in Kabul outside the Foreign Ministry that officials and witnesses said killed at least five people and wounded 40 others.
An ISIS member slipped by security barriers "before blowing up his explosive belt in the middle of employees and guards", Amaq, the propaganda agency of ISIS's Khorasan branch (ISIS-K), said on the Telegram messaging app.
An AFP team was conducting an interview next door when Wednesday's blast took place.
A company driver waiting outside saw a man holding a bag and with a rifle slung over his shoulder walk past before the man blew himself up.
"He passed by my car, and after a few seconds there was a loud blast," said Jamshed Karimi. "I saw the man blowing himself up."
Five civilians were killed, Kabul police spokesman Khalid Zadran said.
Italian nongovernmental organisation Emergency NGO, which operates a hospital in Kabul, said it received more than 40 wounded survivors.
"Casualty numbers are continuing to rise," Emergency said in a statement. "We have also set up beds in the kitchens and canteen."
The blast killed at least 20 people, "including several 'diplomatic' employees", claimed ISIS-K.
A Chinese delegation was expected at the Foreign Ministry Wednesday, according to a local official, but it was not yet clear if it was present at the time of the blast.
No foreigners were present when the suicide bomber struck, another official said.
Bodies lay strewn on the road in the aftermath outside the high-walled compound, a video verified by AFP showed.
Some wounded victims writhed on the ground, screaming for help, and a handful of onlookers scrambled to offer assistance.
The building did not appear to be badly damaged. Window panes in the Interior Ministry were also shattered by the explosion.
Tom West, the US special representative on Afghanistan, tweeted that diplomats "have seen reports of at least 20 dead and many more injured".
"This violence serves no purpose," he said.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) also condemned the attack.
"Rising insecurity is of grave concern," UNAMA tweeted. "Violence is not part of any solution to bring lasting peace to Afghanistan. Our condolences to the families affected."
UK Mission to Afghanistan Chargé d'Affaires Hugo Shorter in a tweet condemned the attack and said, "The UK rejects such senseless and indiscriminate acts of violence."
Attacks targeting foreigners
ISIS has claimed a string of attacks that have targeted foreigners or foreign interests in recent months.
At least five Chinese nationals were wounded last month when gunmen stormed a hotel popular with Chinese businesspeople in Kabul.
That raid was claimed by ISIS, which also took responsibility for an attack on Pakistan's embassy in Kabul in December that Islamabad denounced as an "assassination attempt" against its ambassador.
Neighbouring China is one of the few nations to maintain diplomatic ties with Kabul, with an eye on Afghanistan's ample mineral deposits and natural resources.
Last week Chinese Ambassador to Afghanistan Wang Yu announced a Chinese company's contract to extract Afghan oil, which many Afghan analysts decried as illegitimate and exploitative and said will not benefit Afghans.
In October, four people were killed and 25 wounded in an attack on a mosque on the grounds of the Interior Ministry in Kabul, with survivors reporting it was a suicide bombing.
And two Russian embassy staff members were killed in a suicide bombing outside their mission in September in another attack claimed by ISIS.
Hundreds of people, including members of Afghanistan's minority communities, have been killed and wounded in other attacks claimed by ISIS.