Explosion rocks central Kabul

  • 19/04/2016
Afghan security forces transfer injured security personnel into an ambulance after a suicide car bomb attack in Kabul (Reuters)
Afghan security forces transfer injured security personnel into an ambulance after a suicide car bomb attack in Kabul (Reuters)

A Taliban suicide car bomber has attacked an office of Afghanistan's main national security agency in Kabul, killing several people and wounding more than 200.

It was the first assault in the capital since the group declared their new spring offensive a week ago.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani condemned Tuesday's attack (local time) "in the strongest possible terms" in a statement from the presidential palace, only a few hundred metres away from the scene of the blast.

Civilians and members of the Afghan security forces were among those caught in the attack which occurred at the height of the morning peak hour, the palace said.

Gunfire rang out for more than 30 minutes after the blast, according to Reuters witnesses at the scene. Pictures showed windows blown out at the front of an office that houses a National Directorate of Security unit.

The Taliban said on their Pashto-language website that they had carried out the suicide bombing on "Department 10", an NDS unit which is responsible for protecting government ministers and VIPs.

They said a suicide car bomber blew up the main gate at the front of the office, allowing other fighters, including more suicide bombers, to enter the heavily guarded compound.

A separate statement by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said attackers were engaged in a gun battle with Afghan security forces inside the building.

It was not immediately possible to verify the details of the Taliban's claim with government officials. The Islamist group often exaggerates details of attacks against government and military targets.

A thick plume of black smoke had been seen rising from the area near the sprawling US embassy complex in the centre of Kabul immediately after the blast.

Warning sirens blared out for some minutes from the embassy compound, which is also close to the headquarters of the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.

The US embassy and the NATO mission both said they were not affected by the blast.

Meanwhile, fighting has raged around the symbolically important northern city of Kunduz in the week since the Taliban announced their annual spring offensive, although the capital has been relatively quiet since the April 12 announcement.