Blast, gunfire heard as Taliban militants target aid group office in Kabul


KABUL: Taliban militants have attacked the offices of an international aid group in central Kabul, setting off a huge blast and battling Afghan security forces, officials said.

Health officials said at least 15 people were wounded in the attack and transferred to the nearby Emergency Hospital.

Nusrat Rahimi, a spokesperson for the Interior Ministry, told RFE/RL that the explosion occurred at 11:40 a.m. local time on May 8, as Afghanistan observes the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

The assault, claimed by the Taliban, targeted Counterpart International, which has offices near those of the Afghan attorney general, Rahimi said.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the aid group was targeted because it was involved in what he described as “harmful Western activities” inside Afghanistan, without elaborating.

The Interior Ministry said in a statement that 150 staff members had so far been rescued by police special forces.

It said the first and second floor of the facility was cleared and the operation to clear the rest of the building — as well as to rescue the remaining staff members — was ongoing.

The dpa news agency quoted Mirzahussain Sadid, a witness close to the area, as saying he heard three explosions and gunfire and could see smoke rising from a building.

The explosion comes as the U.S. and Taliban representatives continue negotiations in Qatar aimed at bringing an end to the Afghan conflict.

Last week, President Ashraf Ghani offered the Taliban a cease-fire to begin on the first day of Ramadan, which began on May 6. The militant group refused.