More than 100 people – half of them children – were injured in a Taliban car bomb attack in Afghanistan before the extremist fighters were killed in a seven-hour gun battle.
The rush-hour blast outside a military compound in Kabul sent smoke billowing into the air and shook buildings more than a mile away, before Taliban gunmen stormed a building and fought with special forces nearby.
The Taliban fighters fired at emergency workers who went to the blast site to help the wounded, but the gunmen were eventually killed by Afghan security forces.
The heavily-secure neighbourhood is home to military and government buildings, including Afghanistan’s intelligence agency and defence ministry.
At least 105 people have been wounded, including 51 children, but there was no immediate word on fatalities other than the five attackers.
Dozens of people have been injured in a Taliban car bomb attack in Afghanistan. Pictured, Afghan security forces secure the scene this morning
A wounded man – apparently bleeding in his leg – is carried on a stretcher as Afghan rescue workers deal with the aftermath of today’s explosion
Smoke rises after the huge explosion in Kabul this morning for which the Taliban have claimed responsibility
‘At first, a car bomb took place and then several attackers took over a building. The area is cordoned off by the police special forces and (they) are bringing down the attackers,’ interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said.
The area was quickly blocked off by Afghan forces and ambulances, with helicopter gunships seen overhead as firing continued.
Hours later, the Taliban claimed responsibility and said they were targeting a ‘technical installation’ at the defence ministry.
‘We were sitting inside the office when the world turned upside down on us,’ Zaher Usman, an employee at a branch of the culture ministry, which he said stands just 150 yards from the blast.
He said the blast appeared to have occurred near Gulbahar Tower, which contains a shopping mall and residential units and is next to a government building.
Fifty-one children in two schools near the blast site were hurt by flying shards of glass, said Nooria Nazhat, a spokeswoman of the education ministry.
Afghan health workers carry a wounded school pupil after the car bomb blast targeted a military compound in Kabul
A child is carried into a vehicle in Kabul as emergency workers respond to the blast, which the Taliban says it was behind
An injured man is escorted by health workers (left) in Kabul after the explosion which sent a plume of smoke billowing above the city (right)
‘When I opened my eyes, the office was filled with smoke and dust and everything was broken, my colleagues were screaming,’ Usman said.
At least 65 wounded people, including nine children, have been taken to hospital after the rush-hour blast, amid warnings that casualties could rise.
Shams Amini, a football federation spokesman, told AFP that the blast occurred near their HQ gates.
“Some of our colleagues are trapped inside, we have reports of some injuries. We don’t know if the attackers have entered the building,” he said.
Nearby Shamshad TV station, which was attacked in 2017, aired images of broken glass and damage to its offices but said it was not the target.
An armed Afghan security officer is seen securing the scene of the blast in Kabul on Monday morning
Smoke rises from the site of the attack in Kabul which has injured dozens of people, with at least 65 taken to hospital
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 U.S. 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.
A potential deal would see the U.S. agree to withdraw its troops after more than 17 years in Afghanistan, igniting deep concerns among huge swathes of Afghans who fear the militants will return to some semblance of power.
In return, the Taliban would guarantee the country would never again become a safe haven for violent extremist groups, as happened with Al-Qaeda before the September 11, 2001 attacks.