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Six Killed, More Than 115 Hurt As Powerful Blast Rocks Kabul

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Kabul Gunbattle Rages After Bomb Blast
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KABUL -- Four civilians and two members of the Afghan security forces have been killed and more than 115 wounded after a powerful car bomb rocked the Afghan capital, followed by a battle between gunmen and security forces, officials say.

The rush-hour attack near the Defense Ministry compound in Kabul on July 1 was followed by an hours-long gunbattle with militants who took positions in a nearby building to shoot at rescuers. An Interior Ministry official later said that all five militants had been killed.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which came as representatives of the militant groups met in Qatar with negotiators from the United States for the third-straight day in an effort to end the nearly 18-year war in Afghanistan.

The blast occurred in Kabul's Puli Mahmood Khan neighborhood during rush hour and shook buildings up to 2 kilometers away, reports said.

Gunshots could be heard after the explosion as helicopter gunships flew over the area and ambulances rushed to the scene.

Health Ministry spokesman Wahidullah Mayar told RFE/RL that 26 children and five women were among the injured.

However, Education Ministry spokeswoman Nooria Nazhat was quoted as saying that 51 children in two schools near the blast site were hurt by flying glass.

Wounded people receive treatment in a hospital after the blast in Kabul on July 1.
Wounded people receive treatment in a hospital after the blast in Kabul on July 1.

A police official, Mohammad Karim, said that a car bomb exploded outside a Defense Ministry building, after which militants ran into a nearby building and began firing down on the ministry.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the attack targeted a Defense Ministry "logistics and engineering center."

The neighborhood is home to several military and government buildings, as well as the headquarters of the Afghan Football Federation.

Speaking from a hospital where he was being treated for light injuries, the federation's acting head, Yousuf Kargar, told RFE/RL: "We were at a meeting. Some of our staff were wounded. I was wounded too. Now, I feel better, by the grace of God."

Afghanistan's chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, tweeted that the "terrorist" attack near the Afghan Football Federation building showed the "inherent criminal nature" of the group.

Abdullah said the country's "heroic" security forces will continue to "pursue & punish" Taliban militants, whom he called "miscreants."

"We strongly condemn the Taliban's latest brutal attack against fellow [Afghans]," the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said.

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry also condemned the "terrorist attack" in Kabul, saying that such assaults were "detrimental to the cause of peace, security, and stability in Afghanistan."

Afghan security forces arrive at the scene of the explosion in Kabul on July 1.
Afghan security forces arrive at the scene of the explosion in Kabul on July 1.

Both the Taliban and the Islamic State (IS) extremist group operate in Kabul, which has been relatively quiet in recent months following a spate of violent explosions, many claimed by the IS affiliate that operates in Afghanistan.

The latest attack in the city came as the seventh round of talks between Taliban negotiators and Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. peace envoy for Afghanistan, entered a third day in the Qatari capital, Doha.

The negotiations were expected to focus on working out a timeline for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and on a Taliban guarantee that militants will not plot attacks from Afghan soil.

Suhail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban's political office in Doha, told AP on July 1, "Our main concern is to make sure a timeline for troop pullout is announced."

The Taliban, driven from power by the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, controls large swaths of Afghanistan's territory.

The group has so far refused to talk directly to the Afghan government in Kabul, calling it a puppet of the West, and has continued to carry out nearly daily attacks across Afghanistan.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
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