At least 28 people were killed and 327 others wounded in an ongoing Taliban attack in central Kabul on Tuesday, the Afghan health ministry said.
“Many of those wounded are in serious condition,” ministry spokesman Mohammad Ismail Kawoosi said. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the brazen attack in a densely packed neighbourhood with government offices, which sent clouds of acrid smoke billowing in the sky and rattled windows several kilometres away, in their first major attack in the Afghan capital since they announced the start of this year’s fighting season . “(We) condemn in the strongest terms the terrorist attack in Puli Mahmood Khan neighbourhood of Kabul, as a result of which many of our countrymen were martyred and wounded,” Ashraf Ghani said in a statement without specifying the number. “Such cowardly terrorist attacks will not weaken the will and determination of Afghan security forces to fight against terrorism,” Ghani said. Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid claimed their fighters had managed to enter the offices of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the main spy agency.
Afghan officials did not confirm that claim but intense gun battles could be heard near the NDS compound. The Taliban are generally known to exaggerate battlefield claims.
“The first blast was carried out by a suicide bomber in a car and possibly one or two bombers are still resisting,” interior ministry spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi said.
“The scene of the attack has been completely cordoned off by Afghan security forces.”
The Taliban’s resurgence has raised serious questions about Afghan forces’ capacity to hold their own. An estimated 5500 troops were killed last year, the worst-ever toll.
Peace talks which began last summer were abruptly halted after it was revealed that Taliban leader Mullah Omar had been dead for two years, a disclosure which sparked infighting in the insurgents’ ranks.
A four-country group comprising Afghanistan, the United States, China and Pakistan has been holding meetings since January aimed at jump-starting negotiations, though their efforts have so far been in vain.