Kabul bomb: Powerful blast rocks Afghanistan capital, scores wounded

At least 50 children were among almost 100 people wounded Monday when the Taliban detonated a powerful auto bomb in an area of Kabul housing military and government buildings, officials said.

The gun battle lasted more than seven hours, a security official said, adding that the Taliban fighters in the under-construction building fired at Afghan forces who rushed to the blast site to evacuate the wounded.

Militant spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid released a statement saying the insurgents had targeted a defence ministry building in the area, which was quickly blocked off by Afghan forces and ambulances, with helicopter gunships seen overhead as firing continued.

The attack comes as USA special peace envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad holds a seventh round of peace talks with the Taliban Islamist militant group in Qatar, aimed at bringing an end to the 18-year war in Afghanistan.

Monday's blast sent a huge plume of smoke over the Puli Mahmood Khan district.

Health Ministry spokesman Wahidullah Mayar told RFE/RL that one person died in the violence, while 93 injured people, including nine children, were taken to hospitals for treatment.

"Gunmen have entered a building and they are clashing with the Afghan forces after the powerful blast", interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi told reporters.

The heavily-secured neighbourhood is home to some military and government buildings, including one shared by Afghanistan's intelligence agency and defence ministry, as well as the Afghan Football Federation and Cricket Board.

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"Some of our colleagues are trapped inside, we have reports of some injuries".

But, a Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said in a tweet on Monday that the group will engage in intra-Afghan talks once an agreement is sealed with the USA on troop withdrawal.

Afghanistan's chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, tweeted that the "terrorist" attack near the Afghan Football Federation building showed the "inherent criminal nature" of the group. The Taliban, who have also carried out scores of attacks in Kabul, said they had no claim of responsibility for the blast.

The violence coincided with intensified Taliban battlefield attacks across Afghanistan that officials said have killed almost 100 Afghan security forces in the past two days.

The U.S. Embassy in a statement condemned "Taliban's latest brutal attacks against fellow Afghans".

The negotiations have so far centred on four issues - counter-terrorism, the foreign troop presence, an intra-Afghan dialogue and a permanent ceasefire.

The Taliban, driven from power by the US -led invasion in 2001, controls large swaths of Afghanistan's territory.

"The Afghan government is ready for unconditional talks with the Taliban given that achievements of Afghanistan are protected", said MoFA spokesman Sibghat Ahmadi.

  • Sonia Alvarado