Many were left dead or wounded in Kabul on Tuesday after a serious car bomb exploded followed by a severe firefight, according to the Afghan president. The Taliban claim responsibility for the attack and it comes a week following the insurgents launching of their annual spring offensive.
The attack occurred near government offices resulting in clouds of acrid smoke in the sky and rattled windows some miles away.
The assault which took place in a neighborhood marks the first crucial Taliban attack in the Afghan capital since the group announced the commencement of this year’s fighting season.
“We condemn in the strongest terms the terrorist attack in Puli Mahmood Khan neighbourhood of Kabul, as a result of which many of our countrymen were martyred and wounded,” Ghani said in a statement.
According to the Afghan health ministry, 208 wounded people were sent over to the hospital but no fatalities were given.
“Such cowardly terrorist attacks will not weaken the will and determination of Afghan security forces to fight against terrorism,” Ghani said.
Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman stated that Taliban fighters had found their way into the offices of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), which is the major spy agency.
That claim has not been confirmed by Afghan officials; however, gun battles were heard near the NDS building.
It is quite common, though, for the Taliban to make absurd battlefield claims.
The interior ministry spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi confirmed to the AFP that, “The first blast was carried out by a suicide bomber in a car and possibly one or two bombers are still resisting… The scene of the attack has been completely cordoned off by Afghan security forces.”
The attack was also condemned by Pakistan’s Foreign Office.
Despite the government’s efforts to bring the insurgents back to the negotiating table to end the rather long conflict, the Taliban announced last week Tuesday, the commencement of their “spring offensive”.
Their intent is to “employ large-scale attacks on enemy positions across the country” during the offensive labelled Operation Omari, which is in remembrance of the group’s dead founder, Mullah Omar, whose death was disclosed in the previous year.
The offensive began last week in the northern city of Kunduz which was briefly captured last year marking a shocking failure for the Afghan forces.
However, the insurgents were driven out of the city by Afghan officials on Friday.
The “fighting season” is normally welcomed with the start of the annual spring offensive, although this past winter, the silence was shorter and rebels persisted in their attack against battle government forces but with less intensity.
Taliban’s reappearance has created some doubts regarding the ability of the Afghan forces’ to handle serious attacks. About 5,500 troops were killed last year which is the worst-ever toll.
The peace talks which started last summer were suddenly brought to an end following the revelation of the death of the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, who had been dead for two years. The disclosure incited infighting between insurgents.
Afghanistan, United States, China, and Pakistan have been meeting since the start of the year to kick-start negotiations.