Ten people died and 50 others were injured after a car bomb and shooting attack on a security office in the northern province of Samangan in Afghanistan.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the violence outside the office of Afghanistan’s spy agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), in Aybak, the provincial capital of Samangan, at 11am on Monday.
“I was just stepping out of my office to go for field work when I heard and felt the explosion. Our office is about a kilometre away from the NDS,” said 35-year-old Amin Aarween, an NGO worker from Aybak.
“It felt like the bomb was in our car. I froze for few seconds and I could see people around me were panicked, running and crying to find a safe place. It was a scary few minutes.”
Abdul Latif Ibrahimi, Samangan's governor, said 10 security personnel were killed and 54 people, including civilians, were wounded.
The area of the attack was cordoned off as NDS forces and police engaged in a battle with the gunmen.
A police official at the scene of the attack confirmed to The National that fighting raged after the bombing.
“The attackers have entered the municipal office next door to the NDS and are firing from there,” he said, as gunshots could be heard in the background of the phone call.
“About 50 injured people have been carried to the hospital so far and their condition is not good,” he said.
The attack ended when four gunmen were killed by security forces. Although the number of casualties was not confirmed, more fatalities were thought likely.
“NDS shares a wall with the Aybak municipality [offices] and many civilians were outside waiting to get their work done. So it is likely many casualties will be civilians,” Mr Aarween said.
His house is near the site of the attack and was damaged by the explosion.
“I talked to my family, and some of them have suffered minor injuries, but they are okay. Our house is badly damaged though,” he said.
The force of the explosion was felt across the city of Aybak, which has fewer than 10,000 residents.
“People are scared. Unfortunately, this is the not first attack and such security issues have become normal to people,” Mr Aarween said.
Fighting between the Taliban and Afghan forces in the northern provinces has escalated in the past weeks. As a result, the Baghlan motorway, an important trade route that passes through Aybak, has been closed for much of the past week, officials said.
The Taliban's role in the attack was likely to impede progress on peace talks with the US and Afghan governments.
Taliban negotiations with Afghan officials have not started because of a separate disagreement over the release of 600 Taliban prisoners from the 5,000 the group has demanded.