A suicide bomb and firearm attack in Kabul’s Green Zone that targeted Afghanistan’s acting Defense Minister and killed eight people on Tuesday was claimed by the Taliban, as the hardline Islamist group continued to increase violence. violence across the country.
The suicide bombing, which targeted the house used by Bismillah Mohammadi, was one of the largest in the Afghan capital in recent months. It came amid heavy fighting in the south and west of the country as the Taliban attempted to take over three key cities.
The attack took place in the wealthy Sherpur neighborhood, located in a section of the capital known as the Green Zone, where security is tight.
In a statement claiming responsibility, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said: “The attack is the beginning of retaliatory operations against the Kabul administration circles and leaders who are ordering attacks and bombings in different parts. from the country”.
Mujahid said the attack was carried out in retaliation for recent attacks by Afghan national forces in several provinces that he said caused civilian casualties and displacement. At least four Taliban fighters were killed in the assault.
It represents a major escalation on the part of the Taliban, who have largely refrained from carrying out large-scale attacks in the capital in recent years after starting talks with the United States on troop withdrawal.
The attack came amid reports that at least 18 civilians, including women and children, had been killed in an airstrike in the southern city of Kandahar, as another 49,000 people were displaced by fighting in the country.
The Kabul attack was divided into two parts. A first bomb exploded in the center of Kabul, sending a thick plume of smoke into the sky. It was followed by a second blast about two hours later, then by smaller blasts and rapid fire, also near the high-security Green Zone that houses several embassies, including the US mission.
Afghan forces repelled the attackers, leaving the minister unharmed, but at least eight people were killed.
A security source said several attackers broke into a legislator’s home after setting off the car bomb and fired at the minister’s residence from there.
The Taliban threat to Kabul came after the Afghan army launched a counterattack against insurgents in the southern city of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, which the Taliban have razed and captured most of the districts of the city.
The military asked people to leave the city on Tuesday while they prepared an offensive.
Saleh Mohammad, a resident, said hundreds of families had fled when fighting broke out, trapping many in the crossfire.
“There is no way to escape the area because the fighting continues. There is no guarantee that they will not kill us on the way, ”Mohammad said. “The government and the Taliban are destroying us.”
An Afghan army spokesman said an emergency had been declared in Lashkar Gah and government forces were receiving reinforcements and air support from the United States. “Special forces have been sent to the area. They are in good spirits, ”General Ajmal Omar Shinwari told Reuters.
The loss of Lashkar Gah would be a major blow to the government, which has vowed to defend strategic centers after losing many rural districts to the Taliban in recent months.
Herat International Airport remained closed on Wednesday after it was attacked by at least four mortars on Tuesday. Intense fighting continued around the airport and the key Gozara district on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
“Tickets to Kabul are already reserved until Sunday and there are more people in line waiting to receive [a] ticket [to] get out of town, ”said a ticket seller. The airport had been the only safe way out of the besieged city since the Taliban took over the border crossings with Iran and Turkmenistan.
As Taliban fighters attacked the eastern outskirts of the city for the first time on Wednesday afternoon, security forces and men loyal to warlord Ismail Khan were seen running towards the Shaidaei refugee camp to the east.
Refugees who had fled to Herat from fighting elsewhere were caught in the crossfire Wednesday afternoon and airstrikes were also reported in the area.
“We fled from Farah province when [the] The Taliban took over our city and [we] He came here, living in tents, but at least we were safe from being killed in a crossfire, ”one refugee in the camp told The Guardian. “The war came back to us here and now we don’t know where to flee.”
Heavy fighting also broke out in two western Herat neighborhoods, Ab Borda and Hawz e Karbas, which have been the subject of heavy fighting over the past week. Taliban fighters were seen walking freely on the southern outskirts of the city and sporadic gunfire was heard in the region.
Schools were closed for the third day because the government asked people to stay home for a “clean-up operation”.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism