Afghanistan: Taliban claim responsibility for attack on defence minister

A car bomb exploded near the defence minister's residence in Kabul

Powerful explosion rocks Afghan capital

Powerful explosion rocks Afghan capital
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Taliban insurgents on Wednesday claimed responsibility for an attack on the residence of Afghanistan's acting defence minister in Kabul.

A car bomb exploded near the residence of Gen Bismillah Mohammadi in the Shirpur area of Kabul on Tuesday.

The explosion took place before a planned citywide protest against Taliban attacks.

Gen Mohammadi survived the attempt on his life as he was not home when the attack occurred, ministry representative Fawad Aman said.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said the group targeted the residence, adding that an important meeting was underway at the time.

Acting Afghan defence minister speaks after attack on his residence

Acting Afghan defence minister speaks after attack on his residence

At least eight people were killed in the attack and 20 wounded, Afghanistan's interior ministry said.

The attack marked a major escalation in the Taliban's campaign. The attack targeted a heavily fortified area of the capital, which has in recent weeks largely been spared the violence hitting other parts of the country.

Afghans across Kabul and other major cities had gathered on their terraces at 9pm chanting “Allahu Akbar”, or "God is great", to cheer on the Afghan Security Forces and local militias, who are resisting increased Taliban advances in several districts in the country.

“We were on the rooftop of our house with my cousins preparing to join the cheer when we heard a big boom," said 23-year-old Kabul resident Mahmoud Azim. "The impact of the explosion almost knocked me off the roof. The towering flames and the smoke made it hard for us to see each other.”

Mr Azim’s cousin was injured in the explosion and had to be rushed to the hospital.

“I just talked to him and he shared that there were many of the injured being brought into the hospital,” he said.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said the bombing bore "all the hallmarks of the spate of Taliban attacks that we have seen in recent weeks".

"We unequivocally condemn the bombing and we continue to stand by our Afghan partners," he said.

The Taliban later warned in a statement that the attack was only the start of a new "retaliatory" campaign to target government officials.

Battle for Lashkar Gah

In the country's southern city of Lashkar Gah, almost 650 kilometres from Kabul, the Afghan military launched a counterattack against the insurgents on Tuesday after sending Special Forces to join local militias in the town.

The military had asked people to leave the city as they prepared for their offensive.

Lashkar Gah is one of three strategic cities currently being contested, with heavy fighting also happening around the city of Kandahar, about 130 kilometres to the east, as well as the far western Afghan city of Herat.

In these cities, analysts have predicted a difficult fight and the Afghan government has deployed commandos and Special Forces.

Lashkar Gah resident Saleh Mohammad said hundreds of families had fled as fighting erupted between the two sides, trapping many in the crossfire.

"There is no way to escape from the area because the fighting is ongoing. There is no guarantee that we will not be killed on the way," Mohammad said.

"The government and the Taliban are destroying us."

The insurgents have taken control of vast swathes of the countryside and key border towns, taking advantage of the security vacuum left by the withdrawal of US forces.

The Taliban are now targeting cities, with fierce fighting for a week around Herat near the western border with Iran, as well as Lashkar Gah and Kandahar in the south.

"Those families which had financial support or a car have left their homes. The families who can not afford to are obliged to stay in their own homes as we are," resident Halim Karimi told AFP.

"We don't know where to go or how to leave. We are born to die."

The loss of Lashkar Gah, the capital of southern Helmand province, would be a massive strategic and psychological blow for the government.

The Taliban have already made significant advances inside the town however, taking control of some radio and TV stations in the city, and moving into people's homes.

The United Nations reported Tuesday that at least 40 civilians had been killed in Lashkar Gah in the previous 24 hours.

Updated: August 04, 2021, 2:25 PM