Bomb, gun battle in Kabul kill 30

NDS offices targeted; Taliban claim attack; Nawaz condoles with Ghani

Kabul—At least 30 people were killed and hundreds wounded when a Taliban truck bomb tore through central Kabul and a fierce firefight broke out Tuesday, a week after the insurgents launched their annual spring offensive.
The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack in a densely crowded neighbourhood, which sent clouds of smoke billowing into the sky and rattled windows several kilometres away.
The brazen assault near the defence ministry marks the first major Taliban attack in the Afghan capital since the insurgents announced the start of this year’s fighting season.
“One of the suicide attackers blew up an explosives-laden truck in a public parking lot next to a government building,” Kabul police chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi told reporters. “The second attacker engaged security forces in a gunbattle before being gunned down.”
Interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said 30 people, including women and children, were killed in the attack and warned that the toll could rise further.
He added that more than 320 were wounded, with many of them battling for their lives in hospital.
The pitched firefight appeared to die down several hours after the powerful explosion, but some security officials expressed concern that other bombers may still be on the loose.
“I saw wounded people lying on the road and screaming helplessly,” said Sadiqullah, who runs a tea stall near the building which was attacked.
“It was devastating. We are fed up with such attacks. How long must ordinary civilians suffer like this?”
The interior ministry said hundreds of kilograms of explosives were used in the bombing, the deadliest so far this year in the Afghan capital.
The scene of the attack was littered with upturned cars, many of them mangled and charred.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed their fighters had managed to enter the offices of the National Directorate of Security, the main spy agency.
Sediqqi conceded that one of the attackers managed to breach the compound, a government office responsible for providing security to government VIPs, but said he was gunned down after a firefight.
“This attack shows the devastation caused by the use of explosive devices in urban areas and once more demonstrates complete disregard for the lives of Afghan civilians,” the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said.
“The use of explosives in populated areas, in circumstances almost certain to cause immense suffering to civilians, may amount to war crimes.”
A four-country group comprising Afghanistan, the United States, China and Pakistan has been holding meetings since January aimed at jump-starting negotiations, though their efforts have so far been in vain.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif conveyed his immense grief to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani over loss of precious lives in heinous terrorist attack in Kabul.
In a letter addressed to the Afghan President, the Prime Minister said, “On behalf of the people and the Government of Pakistan and my own behalf, I strongly condemn the brutal act and offer my heartfelt condolences to Your Excellency and the bereaved families. Our prayers and sympathies are with the families who have lost their loved ones and we wish for early recovery of the injured.”
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reiterated Pakistan’s unequivocal condemnation of terrorism in all forms and manifestations. He noted that such incidents continued to remind them that the scourge of terrorism remained a major threat to the peace and stability in their countries.
“It serves as a tool for perpetuation of senseless violence in our societies inflicting immense pain and suffering to the people. Eliminating this menace requires firm resolve as well as coordinated approach on our part,” he added.
Nawaz termed terrorism and extremism a threat for both Pakistan and Afghanistan and peace and stability in the respective societies.
It is, therefore, needed to launch joint efforts to eliminate the menace, the premier added.
Earlier during the day, the foreign ministry condemned the attack in a statement.
“We extend our heartfelt sympathies and condolences to those who have lost their loved ones and pray for an early recovery of the injured,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said Pakistan condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and expressed solidarity with the government and people of Afghanistan.—Agencies

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