Scores of people were wounded when a Taliban car bomb detonated in Kabul on Wednesday, sending a massive plume of smoke over the Afghan capital and shattering windows far from the blast site.
Violence is surging across Afghanistan and in Kabul as the United States and the Taliban negotiate a peace deal ahead of elections planned for September 28.
The car bomb exploded near the entrance of a police station in western Kabul around 9:00 am (0430 GMT), interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said.
Health ministry spokesman Wahidullah Mayar said at least 95 people, mostly civilians including women and children, had been taken to hospital.
“I heard a big bang and all the windows of my shop broke with glass flying everywhere,” shopkeeper Ahmad Saleh told AFP.
“My head is spinning and still I don’t know what has happened but the windows of about 20 shops around one kilometre from the blast site are broken.”
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
According to footage on social media and witnesses, small-arms fire could be heard following the blast.
A common insurgent tactic is to use a suicide bomber to hit a target and then follow up with gunmen storming the area.
More than 1,500 civilians were killed or wounded in the Afghan conflict in July alone, according to the United Nations, the highest monthly toll so far this year and the worst single month since May 2017.
The Taliban warned Afghans on Tuesday to keep away from election rallies and ordered its fighters to “stand against” the vote planned for September 28.
Previous elections have been rocked by frequent attacks by the Taliban and other insurgent groups trying to undermine Afghanistan’s fragile democracy.
Overnight Tuesday-Wednesday, Afghan commandos stormed a safe house for Islamic State fighters near Kabul’s airport, officials said. Details of that operation were still emerging.
Separately, in Baghlan province in northern Afghanistan, authorities said they stopped an attack on a security forces convoy.
According to an Afghan army statement, three attackers were driving in an explosives-packed Humvee toward the convoy, but Afghan troops spotted them and destroyed the vehicle with a rocket-propelled grenade. Three attackers were killed, it added.
At least five people were killed and seven wounded in Kabul on Tuesday when a vehicle carrying workers from the counter-narcotics directorate was bombed, the interior ministry said.
The US and the Taliban met in Doha this week for an eighth round of talks aimed at striking a peace deal that would slash the American military presence in Afghanistan.
Despite the bloodshed sweeping the nation, both sides have cited “excellent progress”.
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