Multiple blasts rock Kabul, civilian casualties reported
Civilian casualties have been reported as coordinated strikes target the Defense Ministries and lawmakers in the capital Kabul amid rising tension between the government forces and Taliban militants.
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An explosives-laden car was detonated near the residence of acting Defense Minister Gen. Bismillah Mohammadi in downtown Kabul on Tuesday evening.
The car bomb attack left three civilians and as many assailants dead. At least seven other people were wounded in the attack, according to an Afghan health ministry spokesperson.
Speaking to Afghanistan's TOLO news agency, a defense ministry spokesman said that Mohammadi is fine as he was not at his residence when the blast occurred.
The acting defense minister said the massive explosion in Kabul was a "terrorist attack" aimed at him, and vowed that such incidents cannot shake the will of Afghan security forces and their determination to defend the country.
Some Afghan lawmakers’ houses were also located in the area where the blast happened.
Less than two hours after the car bomb detonated, another loud blast followed by rapid gunfire and hand grenade shook Kabul, in what appeared to be the same area of the city.
No group or individual has claimed responsibility for the attacks but they came during an escalation in violence by the Taliban over the past month.
Heavy clashes are reported underway between Afghan government forces and the Taliban in the city of Lashkargah in Helmand and in the city of Heart, in southern and western Afghanistan, respectively.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) tweeted Tuesday of its "deepening concern for Afghan civilians" as fighting worsens.
At least 40 civilians have been killed and 118 civilians injured within the last 24 hours in Lashkargah, UNAMA said, adding that "UN urges [an] immediate end to fighting in urban areas."
Fighting continues as peace negotiations between the Kabul government and the Taliban have so far failed to produce an agreement to end the war, with the Taliban militants intensifying their attacks as US-led foreign forces complete a withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Monday blamed the deteriorating security situation in the country on the “sudden” decision by the US to pull back its troops. But he assured the Afghan nation that the situation would change in the next six months and the government would bring everything under control due to a security plan.
The Taliban militants are believed to be in control of about half of Afghanistan’s roughly 400 districts. Most of the militants’ advances have focused on rural areas, and no major city has fallen to the militants yet.