Sat, 24 Aug 2019

KABUL -- Gunmen have attacked the Communications Ministry in the center of the Afghan capital, officials say.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack that opened shortly before midday with an explosion at the entrance of the ministry in a busy commercial area of the city, followed up by gunfire.

Police chief General Sayed Mohammad Roshandil said a bomber blew himself up outside the ministry, clearing the way for the other attackers to enter the building and the heavily guarded government compound in central Kabul.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi told RFE/RL that two gunmen had been killed by security forces and the area around the building was sealed off by the police.

'Around 11:40 a.m. an explosion was heard near the Communications Ministry, and sporadic fire has also been heard in the area,' Rahimi said.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on social media his group was not involved in the attack.

A Health Ministry spokesman said at least six people were wounded in the attack.

Local TV channel Ariana News reported that after the explosion a number of attackers entered the ministry, where they were currently exchanging fire with security forces.

Reports said people were being evacuated from buildings around the attack scene.

The explosion was also close to the heavily fortified Serena Hotel, one of the very few hotels still used by foreign visitors, in one of the main commercial areas of the city.

The attack comes after peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Qatar were canceled.

The talks, which had been scheduled for April 19, were considered a significant first step toward finding a negotiated end to the war in Afghanistan and the eventual withdrawal of U.S. troops.

It also comes the week after the Taliban announced its annual spring offensive.

The militants now control or influence about half the country, and last year was the deadliest yet for civilians.

Both Taliban insurgents and the Islamic State group are active in eastern Afghanistan and have previously claimed attacks in Kabul.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, Tolo News, and AFP

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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