Afghanistan’s security forces were embroiled in a gunfight with Taliban insurgents on Monday after the latter detonated a vehicle bomb outside a government building in the capital city of Kabul, BBC reported.
There is no clarity on the number of people killed or wounded in the attack. According to The New York Times, at least 40 people died in the attack while Reuters quoted health ministry spokesperson Wahidullah Mayar as saying that nearly 100 injured were taken to the hospital. He refused to comment on the number of casualties. According to the education ministry, almost 50 children on their way to school were wounded due to flying glass. They were now in stable condition, AFP reported.
The interior ministry, on the other hand, said that at least 16 people were killed, Al Jazeera quoted unidentified officials as saying, adding that 105 people were injured. However, BBC cited government officials as saying that three people were killed and over 90 injured in the attack.
A huge plume of smoke was reportedly seen over the Puli Mahmood Khan district following the attack. Special forces cordoned off the area while intermittent gunfire was heard, Reuters quoted witnesses as saying.
The Taliban said it had targeted a facility of the defence ministry. The militant group’s spokesperson Zabuhullah Mujahid said the group attacked the “logistics and engineering centres” of the ministry. The statement added that the target of the attack was military personnel and not civilians.
“Clashes ended with the death of all five attackers,” Al Jazeera quoted Interior Ministry spokesperson Nasrat Rahimi as saying.
The education ministry said that five schools had been partly damaged and urged “all sides involved in fighting to guarantee the safety of students, teachers, education workers and schools”, AFP reported.
Non-governmental organisation Save the Children called the attack “utterly deplorable”, cautioning that “children’s smaller bodies sustain more serious injuries than adults”. It also added that the trauma from such attacks leave an impact on the children for years.
A car bomb went off during peak traffic hours in the morning. According to the police, two militants who went inside the government building were killed, while others kept on firing. The neighbourhood where the attack occurred reportedly has some military and government buildings, including one shared by the country’s intelligence agency as well as the Afghan Football Federation and the Afghan Cricket Board. A private war museum and a television station were damaged in the attack.
“Some of our colleagues are trapped inside, we have reports of some injuries,” Al Jazeera had earlier quoted Shams Amini, a football federation spokesman as saying. “We don’t know if the attackers have entered the building.” Local news channel Tolo News reported that 210 civilians residing near the location of the attack were rescued by security forces.
The attack came amid peace talks between the United States’ special peace envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and members of the Taliban terror group in Qatar. The discussions are aimed at ending the 18-year-old war in Afghanistan.