KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — Underscoring the deteriorating security situation in the Afghan capital, a suicide bomber managed Thursday to make his way into a heavily guarded government ministry in the city center and set off a powerful explosion. At least five other people were killed and more than a dozen hurt.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which President Hamid Karzai's office condemned as "heinous."
The scene at the Information and Culture Ministry was one of chaos in the wake of the blast, with officials shouting and police muscling bystanders away. Broken glass was sprayed onto the busy street in front of the ministry, which is lined with shops. One side of the building collapsed, and the aqua-colored front gates were bent and twisted by the force of the explosion.
Authorities said that as many as two other assailants were believed to have taken part in the attack, but had apparently escaped. The death toll provided by various officials differed, but by day's end Karzai's office said five "civilians" -- people other than the bomber -- were killed in the explosion.
Witnesses and officials gave varying accounts of how the bombing unfolded. There was an exchange of gunfire at the ministry's entrance about 11 a.m., shortly before the explosion rocked its main hall, according to police. A ministry employee, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution by militants, said security guards shot and wounded the bomber as he was entering the building, but that he managed to set off his explosives.