Zalmay Khalilzad briefs President Ashraf Ghani on US-Taliban talks as clashes intensify in several provinces.
At least 16 people have been killed and more than 100 wounded, after a massive explosion from a suicide car bomb attack rocked central Kabul, the third attack claimed by the Taliban in as many days in the country.
The attack took place on Monday night in a residential area near Green Village, a large compound that houses aid agencies and international organisations, interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said a coordinated attack with a suicide bomber and gunmen was under way.
The attack took place while Afghanistan’s main TV station Tolo News aired an interview with the US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who was discussing a potential deal with the Taliban that would see the US withdraw forces from five bases across Afghanistan.
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Gunfire could be heard in the aftermath of the blast along with a secondary explosion when a nearby petrol station caught fire, sending plumes of smoke into the night sky.
Naseer Ahmad fell off his bed after hearing blast.
“It was a huge bang! Seems like a very big explosion,” he told Al Jazeera.
Ahmad Qadir, a gatekeeper at a petrol pump near the Green Village, said he was on duty when he saw flames and heard the blast, adding that he could hear gunfire after the explosion.
Gula Jan, a police official, survived the blast despite being just “15-20 feet away”.
“We were sitting in our police truck to the right of the compound’s gate when a car drove directly into the gate and exploded. If we had been outside our truck, we would be dead,” the 45-year-old told Al Jazeera.
“At least two or three of my fellow police officers were severely injured and we have no idea how many more are killed and wounded.
“I was told by my colleague that several gunmen entered the compound after the explosion.”
Khyn Noor, an 18-year-old truck driver, said he rushed to the compound with his brother after receiving calls that his friends and family members who are also truck drivers were injured in the blast.
“We’re here at this petrol station,” he told Al Jazeera. “We don’t know who is dead or alive.”
An intelligence official who works near the compound and spoke to Al Jazeera on the condition of anonymity said he heard a “massive explosion” and rushed to the scene.
“When we arrived, we saw Afghan special forces rushing in on trucks,” the official said. “We had to leave the area because we couldn’t breathe due to the toxic fumes of whatever was used to blow up the compound gate.”
The Green Village has been a frequent target of attacks.
Many foreigners live in the compound, which is heavily guarded by Afghan forces and private security guards.
The area was targeted by a suicide car bomber in January, killing at least four people and wounding dozens.
On Sunday, a second attack by the Taliban in as many days left several civilians and security forces dead.
Four civilians and two members of the security forces were killed in the attack on Puli Khumri, the capital of Baghlan province, with 20 civilians and two security forces wounded. At least 21 Taliban fighters were also dead, the interior ministry said.
A day earlier, hundreds of its fighters overran parts of Kunduz, a strategic city and the capital of the eponymous province that the group has twice come close to taking in recent years.
On Monday, attacks were also ongoing in the provinces of Kunduz, Takhar, Badakhshan, Balkh, Farah and Herat, according to Afghan local media. The Kabul-Baghlan and Baghlan-Kunduz highways were also blocked.
The escalating violence has overshadowed expectations over a peace deal between the Taliban and the United States aimed at ending 18 years of war.
Additional reporting by Mohsin Khan Momand and Mohammed Harun Arsalai in Kabul