Blast In Afghan Capital Kabul, Casualties Feared

Blast In Afghan Capital Kabul, Casualties Feared

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for an attack on an global NGO in Afghanistan's capital on Wednesday, which set off a huge explosion and injured at least nine, officials said.

The attack targeted an global aid group called Counterpart worldwide, which has offices near those of the Afghan attorney general, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi.

Occasional gunshots and explosions were heard as special forces, backed by advisers from foreign forces, surrounded the site and engaged the attackers in a stand-off.

The Taliban said it was behind the attack.

A health ministry spokesperson, Wahidullah Mayar, said nine wounded people had been taken to hospital.

At least four civilians, including a woman and a police officer, were killed, and 24 civilians and police officers were wounded, said Nasrat Rahimi, an interior ministry spokesperson.

Counterpart International has operated in Afghanistan since 2005 and runs civic engagement projects.

The Taliban* claimed responsibility for the attack and, according to media reports, stated that the non-governmental organisation was part of a USA network "involved in harmful Western activities".

"Two floors of the building have been cleared and to avoid civilian casualties, the operation is being undertaken with caution", Mr. Rahimi said.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Counterpart International was involved in "harmful Western activities" and the "inter-mixing" of men and women.

Taliban insurgents stage near-daily attacks on Afghan forces, even as peace efforts have accelerated to find an end to the country's 17-year war.

Johan Bass, U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan, strongly condemned the attack on the NGO.

Before it was toppled by US and Afghan forces in late 2001, the harsh Taliban regime barred women from working outside their homes, and required them to be accompanied by a male relative.

Last week, the Taliban turned down a ceasefire agreement proposed by President Ashraf Ghani and Zalmay Khalilzad, the United States special envoy for peace in the country.

Despite stepping up security around Kabul, Afghan authorities have failed to deter deadly attacks that have undermined confidence in the government.

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