Gunmen attacked the communications ministry in the centre of Kabul. The incident has interrupted months of relative calm in the Afghan capital and underlining security threats that have continued despite so many efforts to open peace talks with the Taliban.
The attack which took place on Sunday began shortly before midday with an explosion right at the entrance to a multi-storey building which houses the ministry in a busy commercial area of the city. This was followed up by gunfire which could be heard over a mile away.
Ahmad Zaki, an employee of the ministry said while the firing was still on that he saw three attackers going into the ministry and one of them detonated his explosives while the other two were still fighting security forces.
Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said, police has sealed off the area around the building as at least three attackers battled security forces.
Al Jazeera’s Charlotte Bellis said that hundreds of people were evacuated from the ministry building.
“The explosion took place very close to the Serena Hotel”, she said. Many foreign journalists and diplomats live here.
Officials said that some of the attackers were holed up in a post office next door.
Rahimi said at least two of the attackers had been killed by early afternoon and gunfire could no longer be heard. The Tolo News TV channel also said that the operation by the security forces has officially ended.
The Taliban has issued a statement denying that they were behind the attack, the latest in the series of attacks that have killed hundreds of people in Kabul in the recent years.
The blast followed several months of calm in Kabul, which coincided with talks between U.S and Taliban officials aimed at opening the way for peace negotiations to end more than seventeen years of war in Afghanistan.
The attack took place just days after a planned meeting between the Taliban officials and Afghan politicians and the civil society representatives in Qatari capital Doha got cancelled. It underlines the hurdles facing efforts to reach a peace settlement.
While heavy fighting still continues across Afghanistan, Taliban fighters have announced their now-customary spring offensive, there haven’t been any large scale attacks on civilian targets in Kabul in the past few weeks.