Kabul Rocked By Deadly Explosion, Followed By Gunfire

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 Taliban militants attacked a government agency with a suicide bomb and gunfire Tuesday, killing perhaps more than two dozen people and wounding more than 320 others in one of the most devastating attacks in Kabul in years, Afghan officials said.

The target was an elite Afghan intelligence unit tasked with protecting senior government politicians. It began when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the gates of the agency, located less than a mile away from the presidential palace and the Ministry of Defense headquarters in a densely-populated part of the city.

The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility. It occurred just one week after the Taliban announced the start of its annual spring offensive. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani quickly condemned the attack, saying in a statement that it was a sign that insurgents cannot defeat Afghan forces in a “face-to-face battle.”

The Afghan Ministry of Health said seven people were killed and 327 wounded, mostly civilian passersby. But a police spokesman reached by phone put the death toll at nearly 30. Most of the casualties were caused by the explosives in a small truck adjacent to the agency, spokesman Basir Mujahid said. He by phone said that the death toll is between 28 and 30. 

The attack ended several weeks of relative calm in the Afghan capital and is one of the biggest attacks to rock the Afghan capital in years. After the explosion at the height of the morning rush hour, assailants apparently made their way inside the agency compound, sparking a three-hour gunbattle with Afghan forces. The impact of the explosion shattered windows and cracked the facades of nearby shops and businesses, according to witnesses. 

The Taliban announced the start of their spring offensive April 12. Fighting has since raged around the northern city of Kunduz, Afghanistan’s fifth-largest city, but Kabul had remained relatively quiet. Kunduz fell briefly to the Taliban last September. That marked the biggest setback to the government of Ashraf Ghani since NATO-led forces ended their combat operations in Afghanistan at the end of 2014.

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