Published: Mon, July 01, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Kabul bomb: 34 dead after Taliban bomb attack hits downtown

Kabul bomb: 34 dead after Taliban bomb attack hits downtown

A powerful explosion rocked the Afghan capital early Monday, rattling windows and sending smoke billowing from Kabul's downtown area near the U.S. Embassy.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the July 1 attack, which comes two days after negotiators of the militant group and the United States started a new round of talks in Qatar to try to put an end to the almost 18-year war in Afghanistan - the longest war in US history.

The bomb went off during morning rush hour in the capital when the streets were filled with people.

Mohammad Karim, a police official in the area of the attack, said a vehicle bomb exploded outside a Defense Ministry building. Militants then ran into a nearby high-rise located in a crowded market and began firing down on the ministry.

Police and special Afghan security forces cordoned off the area.

The explosion also damaged the office of the Afghan Football Federation, injuring several players, the federation said.

Kabul's chief police spokesman, Firdous Faramaz, confirmed the explosion but did not provide details on the target or the type of explosive device.

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Health ministry spokesperson Wahidullah Mayar tweeted that 53 wounded patients had been taken to hospital, warning that the figures could rise. He said it is hard to reach the area because of the ongoing gunbattle between police and militants.

In return the Taliban would guarantee the country would never again become a safe haven for violent groups, as happened with Al-Qaeda before the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Pakistan strongly condemned the reported casualties caused by the "terrorist attack". The Taliban said their focus is on getting an announcement of a timetable for the withdrawal of US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops from Afghanistan.

Both the Taliban and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL, ISIS) are active in Kabul. The announcement is likely to be accompanied by a Taliban promise to hold intra-Afghan talks and agree to an eventual cease-fire.

The explosion came two days after the Taliban and the U.S. began their seventh round of talks in the Qatari capital of Doha as Washington eyes a breakthrough before Afghanistan's September presidential election.

Sohail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban political office in Doha, said the group's key concern was to make sure a timeline for foreign troop pullout is announced. The Taliban say a deal is expected, with its focus being on the departure of US -led troops from Afghanistan.

In apparent response to a series of attacks by Afghan forces, the Taliban staged suicide operations in four Humvees on government buildings in southern Kandahar on Sunday, killing dozens of security forces and eight election workers.

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