The misery doesn’t seem to cease piling up for Afghanistan. A powerful car bomb blast left dozens of people wounded in Kabul. Gunmen also battled special forces in an area housing military and government buildings.
The rush-hour explosion sent a plume of smoke into the air above the Puli Mahmood Khan neighbourhood of the Afghan capital and shook buildings up to two kilometres (1.2 miles) away. Gunshots after the blast were also reported by an AFP reporter.
Health ministry spokesman Wahidullah Mayar tweeted that 65 wounded people, including nine children, had been taken to hospital. He warned that casualties could rise. The area was quickly blocked off by Afghan forces and ambulances, with helicopter gunships seen overhead as firing continued.
Police said they do not yet know the target. The nearby “Green Zone” diplomatic area was briefly put on lockdown, but later opened again.
The explosion came two days after the Taliban and the US began their seventh round of talks in Qatar as Washington eyes a breakthrough before Afghanistan’s September presidential election. The negotiations have so far centred on four issues – counter-terrorism, the foreign troop presence, an intra-Afghan dialogue and a permanent ceasefire.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but both the Taliban and the so-called Islamic State group are active in Kabul.
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.