A large blast rocked central Kabul Wednesday, sending a plume of black smoke over the city, police confirmed, in the latest explosion to hit the war-torn city as Afghanistan observes the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
“I can confirm an explosion in the Shahr-e Naw area of Kabul. We are checking the details,” Ferdaws Framurz, a spokesperson for the city’s police force, told AFP on Wednesday, May 8.
Interior ministry spokesperson Nasrat Rahimi said the explosion happened near the offices of CARE International, an NGO with operations in Afghanistan.
“We don’t know the nature of the explosion yet but small arms firing has also been heard in the area,” Rahimi added.
At least 15 people were reported wounded, but the number is expected to rise.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it targeted the American NGO Counterpart International, which is working with the U.S. Agency for International Development in Afghanistan.
The blast comes as the U.S. and Taliban representatives continue negotiations in Qatar aimed at bringing an end to the nearly 18-year-old conflict.
The talks follow a massive peace summit in Kabul last week where President Ashraf Ghani offered the Taliban a ceasefire to begin on the first day of Ramadan, but the insurgents refused.
On April 12, the Taliban announced the start of the traditional fighting season, calling this year’s iteration of its annual offensive Operation Fath – meaning “victory” – and pledging to target foreign forces in the country.
The Taliban have rebuffed repeated calls to halt fighting over the last year as they seek to gain leverage at the negotiating table by pressing the fight on the battlefield.
Last year the Taliban announced a three-day ceasefire at the end of Ramadan after Ghani declared a unilateral truce for eight days earlier in the month.
It was first formal nationwide ceasefire since the U.S.-led invasion of 2001 and saw unprecedented scenes of reconciliation and jubilation across the country.
With reporting from AFP