At least 28 people were killed and 208 wounded when a suicide bomber blew up a bus full of explosives near a government security agency building in the heart of Kabul. After the intial blast, which was described as huge by witnesses, armed men and more suicide bombers stormed the heavily-guarded compound, police said.
Al Jazeera’s Qais Azimy, reporting from Kabul, said Tuesday’s attack, which was quickly claimed by the Taliban, was likely the biggest such incident to hit the capital since 2001. The number of deaths was likely to increase, according to police. “Our sources are telling us that at the time of explosion there was a graduation ceremony going on for new recruits when the suicide bomber detonated himself,” Azimy said.
The security agency attacked is responsible for protecting government ministers and VIPs. A police spokesman, Basir Mujahid, told Al Jazeera that the gunfight was ongoing, as Afghan special forces rushed to the scene. “The Taliban are still fighting with the security forces,” Mujahid said.
In a statement, the Presidential Palace condemned the attack “in the strongest possible terms”. “The explosion has caused a lot of damage to the government,” Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, told Al Jazeera. The US embassy said it was not affected by the blast. The NATO military coalition also said it was unaffected. The Taliban last week announced the start of their “spring offensive” even as the government in Kabul tried to talk them back to the negotiating table in a bid to end the country’s drawn-out conflict.