Taliban suicide car bomber kills 14 and injures 145 in attack on Afghan capital
- At least 14 have died and 145 were injured in the attack
- The Taliban now controls roughly half of Afghanistan
- The organisation is at its strongest since 2001
A SUICIDE car bomber has targeted a police station in the Afghan capital, Kabul, killing 14 people and wounding 145, most of them civilians, officials said.
The shattering morning blast rocked much of the city, a day after a US envoy and the Taliban reported progress in their talks on negotiating an end to the near 18-year war in Afghanistan.
Many Afghans worry what will happen once the estimated 20,000 US and Nato troops in the country return home.
The Taliban bomber detonated his explosives-packed car at a security checkpoint outside the police headquarters in a minority Shiite neighbourhood in western Kabul, police spokesman Firdaus Faramarz said. A military training school is located nearby.
The Taliban said it targeted a recruitment centre for security forces.
Of the wounded, 92 were civilians, deputy interior minister Khoshal Sadat told reporters. Four police officers were among those killed, he said.
The attack took place as many Kabul residents were preparing for the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, which begins on Sunday.
Even as the US-Taliban peace talks continue and the Taliban says it will do more to protect civilians, a growing number of civilians are being killed in Afghanistan.
July saw the highest number of civilian casualties in a single month since 2017, with more than 1,500 killed or wounded as insurgent attacks spiked, the United Nations said earlier this month.
Read more here: Afghan civilian toll almost 4,000 already this year
Afghan chief executive Abdullah Abdullah condemned Wednesday's attack, saying in a Twitter post that "the terrorists aim to disrupt the presidential election campaign".
Afghanistan's presidential election, already delayed over security and organisational concerns, is set for September 28. The Taliban on Tuesday issued a threat warning Afghans to boycott the polls and avoid campaign rallies which "could become potential targets".
Any attack by the Taliban is a barrier to the peace process, presidential spokesman Sediq Seddiqi told reporters.
"The Taliban cannot pose any threat to our government, and the Afghan security forces are strong and can protect the Afghan population," he said.
The Taliban has been staging near-daily attacks against Afghan forces across the country, saying the war will continue as long as US and Nato forces are still in Afghanistan.
Wednesday's attack came against the backdrop of another round of US-Taliban talks this week in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, where the insurgents maintain an office.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the US envoy tasked with finding a peaceful resolution to America's longest conflict, this week reported "excellent progress" at the talks.
A Taliban official said differences had been resolved over the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and Taliban guarantees that it will cut ties with other extremist groups.
The Taliban now controls roughly half of Afghanistan and is at its strongest since 2001, when the US-led invasion toppled their government after it harboured al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.