The Taliban has claimed responsibilty for a powerful explosion and a follow up attack in Kabul’s downtown area near the ministry of defence that has killed at least 10 people and sent dozens to the hospital.
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 car bomb exploded outside a defence ministry building.
At least three fighters then ran into a nearby high-rise located near the ministry’s engineering and logistics department, a government security official said.
“Gunmen have entered a building and they are clashing with the Afghan forces after the powerful blast,” said interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi.
Taliban spokesman Zabuhullah Mujahid said in a statement that the group’s fighters attacked “the logistics and engineering centres” of the ministry of defence.
The statement said the large explosion outside the defence ministry building caused “heavy casualties to a number of civilian people”, but said the target of the attack was not civilian, but military.
The Taliban has been criticized by the United Nations, NGOs and the Afghan government for causing civilian casualties.
Police and special Afghan security forces had cordoned off the area. Sporadic gunfire could be heard hours after the initial explosion.
The heavily-secured neighbourhood is home to some military and government buildings, including one shared by Afghanistan’s intelligence agency and defence ministry, as well as the Afghan Football Federation and the Afghan Cricket Board.
“Some of our colleagues are trapped inside, we have reports of some injuries. We don’t know if the attackers have entered the building,” Shams Amini, a football federation spokesman said.
At least 68 people including nine children were taken to hospitals, health ministry spokesman Wahidullah Mayar said.
The attack comes two days after the Taliban and the United States began a seventh round of talks in Qatar, where the armed group maintains a political office.
The negotiations have so far centred on four issues — counterterrorism, the foreign troop presence, an intra-Afghan dialogue and a permanent ceasefire.
A potential deal would see the US agree to withdraw its troops after nearly 18 years in Afghanistan, igniting deep concerns among many Afghans who fear the fighters will return to some semblance of power.
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.
Al Jazeera and news agencies