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Friday 22 September 2017

Taliban suicide bombings rock Afghan capital Kabul

Smoke rises from a district police headquarters after a suicide bombing in Kabul (AP)
Smoke rises from a district police headquarters after a suicide bombing in Kabul (AP)

At least 16 people have been killed in twin Taliban suicide bombings and a shootout that followed one of the attacks in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul.

The near-simultaneous attacks struck the capital at around noon local time on Wednesday.

First, a suicide car bomber targeted a police station in western Kabul. The explosion was followed by a gunbattle between police and several attackers.

In the second attack, a bomber on foot detonated his explosives outside offices of the intelligence service in eastern Kabul.

Wahid Mujro, the public health ministry spokesman, said 15 people were killed in the police compound and 43 were wounded.

He said one person was killed and another was wounded in the attack in eastern Kabul.

In a message to media, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the group was behind both attacks.

It was not immediately clear how many gunmen were involved in the police station attack.

"We were in the dining room eating lunch when a loud explosion happened. I couldn't see anything for a while," said Manizha, a policewoman who like many women in Afghanistan uses only one name.

She said she managed to escape from the compound as the gunbattle continued inside.

Thick black smoke rose above the police complex, and several rounds of small-arms fire and subsequent explosions were heard from inside the compound, according to Mohammad Naser, a shopkeeper who has a store nearby.

Dozens of windows were shattered on surrounding houses and shops, he added.

The compound includes Kabul's so-called Sixth Police Station and is located next to the country's military school, which might have been the original target, along with cadets attending classes there.

Hours later Sadiq Muradi, of the Kabul police chief's office, said the gunbattle had ended and that security forces were carrying out a clean-up operation following the attack.

President Ashraf Ghani issued a statement condemning the attacks, saying that "terrorists and their alien masters once again tried to create an atmosphere of terror and fear in Kabul".

Mr Ghani linked the attacks to the recent death of a senior Taliban commander, known as Mullah Salaam, in the north-eastern Kunduz province and said the insurgents are trying to attack urban centres to boost morale among their followers.

Meanwhile, the Taliban gained control on Wednesday of local government headquarters in a district in northern Baghlan province, after almost three days of intense battles with Afghan security forces, according to local officials.

Abdul Satar Barez, the provincial governor, said he could not confirm that the whole district of Tala Wa Barfak has fallen to the Taliban but said a number of checkpoints have fallen to the insurgents amid clashes on Wednesday.

A provincial security official said the security forces left their checkpoints and withdrew from the entire district, which is now in Taliban hands.

Mujahid tweeted that Taliban fighters have overrun the Tala Wa Barfak headquarters.

AP

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