Kabul: A suicide bomber struck an upmarket district of the Afghan capital Kabul near a hotel frequented by Westerners on Tuesday, killing at least eight people and wounding 40 others, police said.
The city has been struck by an increase in militant attacks in recent months and Tuesday`s blast came shortly before government officials and ambassadors were due to attend a flagship conference on corruption elsewhere in Kabul.
The bomber struck outside the gate of the Heetal Hotel and near the home of a spokesman for President Hamid Karzai, gutting at least four nearby houses and damaging vehicles, an AFP correspondent said.
"It was a suicide bombing. There are casualties, dead and wounded, including civilians and security personnel," interior ministry spokesman Zamarai Bashary told AFP by telephone.
"The target at this point is unknown," he said.
The upmarket district of Wazir Akbar Khan is home to many foreign embassies and aid groups, as well as Afghan government officials.
One car was badly damaged and paramedics were seen ferrying dead and wounded into ambulances, the AFP reporter said.
"One of our guards was killed. The explosion happened down the road, close to our hotel. Not in our hotel," Heetal manager Paul Gomes told AFP.
Volunteers helped ferry the wounded to medical centres.
Siddiq Omar, 27, who works for an Internet company said five employees from the firm were wounded, including two Indians, two local cleaners and a guard.
"I took the guard to hospital, he is very seriously hurt," he told AFP. He said the Indians had been staying at the company guest house close to the Heetal Hotel.
Nanghirlay, 25, was travelling in a taxi more than two blocks away.
"All the doors of the taxi were blown open by the force of the blast and the car turned full circle because the force of the blast was so big," he said.
The blast occurred shortly before 10:00 am (0630 GMT) as lawmakers, government officials and foreign ambassadors gathered for the conference on efforts to crack down on endemic corruption in Afghanistan.
On Monday, the top US military officer held talks in Kabul on a US surge of 30,000 troops scheduled to start arriving this week, warning that violence in the war-torn country was likely to get worse before it gets better.