Fatal blast rocks Afghan capital Kabul

Taliban claims responsibility for explosion near compound housing international companies and NGO offices.

    The blast took place outside a high-security compound that is home to several international companies and charities [EPA-EFE/Jawad Jalali]
    The blast took place outside a high-security compound that is home to several international companies and charities [EPA-EFE/Jawad Jalali]

    A powerful explosion has rocked the Afghan capital, Kabul, killing at least four people and wounding more than 100, the country's health ministry said. 

    The Taliban claimed responsibility for Monday's blast near the Green Village compound, which houses several international companies and charities, in eastern Kabul.

    Three military personnel were among the dead, Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said. He did not specify what nationality they were. 

    One Indian national was also killed, India's foreign ministry said on Tuesday. 

    The Green Village compound is protected by private security forces, and the road outside has a number of Afghan police and military checkpoints and patrols. 

    "Most of the victims were civilians," said Danish.

    Glass shrapnel

    Different hospitals in the city treated as many as 113 injured, including 14 women and 24 children, Afghanistan's Public Health Ministry Spokesperson Wahidullah Mayar said.

    "Most of them were injured by glass shrapnel injuries, they received required treatment and were discharged," Mayar said.

    The explosion took place when a bomb-laden car blew up outside the high-security compound. It sits along the main road that connects Kabul to Jalalabad. The normally busy road was closed for hours. 

    The area is home to hundreds of local businesses and residential homes. 

    Local Afghan news website Tolo News posted footage on Twitter that appeared to show ambulances returning from the scene of the explosion.

    Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesperson for the Taliban, said the group's fighters were responsible for the attack. He claimed dozens of foreign and Afghan security forces were killed and wounded.

    "Five attackers, including the suicide bomber driving an explosives-laden vehicle, were involved in the attack," Mujahid said in a statement.

    The Taliban often inflates casualty figures in attacks against Afghan government or foreign targets.

    Monday's attack took place as US Peace Envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad tours the region for meetings aimed at bringing an end to the country's 17-year-long war.

    Last week, Taliban leaders called off a fourth round of talks with US officials in Qatar  because of disagreements over the agenda of the meeting.

    The Taliban has rejected numerous requests from regional powers to allow Afghan officials to take part in the peace talks, denouncing the government in Kabul as a "puppet" administration and instead insisting the US is their main adversary in the war in Afghanistan.

    A US-led invasion in 2001 toppled the Taliban, Afghanistan's largest armed group, from power.

    The group has escalated its attacks on security forces and government facilities in recent months.

    The last major attack in the capital took place in late December when 43 people were killed inside a government compound targeted by a suicide bomber and other attackers armed with assault rifles. No group has claimed responsibility for the incident.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies