A massive Taliban suicide bomb as well as a gun attack on a government security office in central Kabul near the US embassy during rush hour on Tuesday killed at least 28 people and wounded more than 320 in Afghanistan earlier today, a week after the militant group announced a spring offensive.
President Ashraf Ghani condemned the assault “in the strongest possible terms” in a statement from the presidential palace, only a few hundred meters away from the scene of the blast in the Afghan capital.
According to Reuters, police chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi said civilians and members of the Afghan security forces were among the dead and wounded. The brazen attack began with a suicide car bomb and security forces and militants then exchanged gunfire, Reuters witnesses near the scene said.
The Taliban took responsibility for the attack and said on their Pashto-language website that they had carried out the suicide bombing on “Department 10”, an NDS (National Directorate of Security) unit which is responsible for protecting government ministers and VIPs. A separate statement on the Taliban’s website said that a suicide car bomber blew himself up in front of the office of National Directorate of Security, Reuters reported. The group claimed that Taliban fighters, including more suicide bombers, had entered the compound.
They said a suicide car bomber blew up the main gate at the front of the office, allowing other fighters, including more suicide bombers, to enter the heavily guarded compound. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a separate statement that the attackers were engaged in a gunbattle with Afghan security forces inside the building.
A thick plume of black smoke was seen rising from the area near the sprawling U.S. embassy complex immediately after the blast. Warning sirens blared out for some minutes from the embassy compound, which is also close to the headquarters of the NATO-led Resolute Support mission. The U.S. embassy and the NATO mission both said they were not affected by the blast.
The Taliban announced the beginning of their spring offensive on April 12, and fighting has raged around the symbolically important northern city of Kunduz since then, although the capital had been relatively quiet.
Photos and clips after the attack showed plumes of smoke rising over the city center.
Tuesday’s blast came days after a United Nations report said urban warfare had caused a spike in the number of deaths and injuries among women and children in Afghanistan this year as the Taliban intensify their campaign against Ghani’s Western-backed government.