Ministry building under attack in Kabul

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-47996762

kabul soldiersImage copyright
EPA

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The attack happened in a busy area of central Kabul

An explosion and gunfire have been heard in the centre of the Afghan capital Kabul near the ministry of information.

The explosion happened at around 11:40 local time (07:10 GMT), officials said.

A ministry source told the BBC that there were three attackers, one of whom managed to get inside the building.

No group has yet said it carried out the attack, but it follows the suspension of talks between the government and Taliban insurgents.

What happened?

The blast happened in a busy area of central Kabul, near one of the city’s most popular hotels, a couple of other ministries, and the presidential palace.

Another of the attackers detonated his explosives at the boundary wall, and the third was shot dead by police.

The Serena Hotel, which is heavily fortified, is one of the few still used by foreign visitors.

At 18 storeys high, the information ministry building is believed to be one of the tallest in Kabul.

Footage broadcast on local TV showed a small cloud of smoke rising near the tower block, while people tried to climb out of the windows of one of the lower levels, AFP news agency reported.

Image copyright
Reuters

Image caption

The building is believed to be one of the tallest in Kabul

The area has now been cordoned off by security forces.

Although Kabul still sees heavy fighting, this comes after months of relative calm in the city.

Ongoing peace talks

The attack has happened amid talks between the US and the Taliban, which aim to negotiate a peace process in the country.

A conference between officials from the militant group and about 250 Afghan politicians had been due to take place in the Qatari capital Doha on 20 and 21 April.

But the meeting was abruptly called off on Thursday after the Taliban complained about the size and status of the Afghan delegation.

In a statement, the Taliban accused the Afghan government of “sabotaging this conference and peace efforts”.

The US and Taliban have held five rounds of direct talks since October 2018, and are now in the middle of their sixth.

The goal is to resolve Afghanistan’s civil conflict and negotiate the withdrawal of US forces in the country.

The US also wants the Taliban to guarantee that Afghan territory won’t be used by foreign militants, and that they won’t pose a security threat to the rest of the world.

In 2001 a US-led military coalition overthrew the Taliban for sheltering al-Qaeda, the militant group behind the 9/11 attacks.

US officials say the conflict in Afghanistan now costs them about $45bn (£34bn) a year.

The Taliban also currently control and influence more territory than they have at any point in the last 18 years.

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