Blast in Afghan capital as Taliban battle government forces in south, west

KABUL (Reuters) – An explosion near a facility of Afghanistan’s main security agency in the capital, Kabul, on Wednesday wounded two civilians and a security official, police said.

Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers keep watch a the site of yesterday’s night-time car bomb blast in Kabul, Afghanistan August 4, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer

The blast near a National Directorate of Security compound came hours after a car bomb and clashes near Kabul’s diplomatic district, in which eight people including four attackers were killed.

There was no claim of responsibility for the Wednesday blast or the late Tuesday attack but they come as the Taliban have stepped up their campaign to defeat the U.S.-backed government as U.S.-led foreign forces complete their withdrawal after 20 years of war.

Fighting has been particularly heavy around the city of Herat, near the western border with Iran, and Lashkar Gah and Kandahar in the south.

The late Tuesday bomb-and-gun attack in Kabul was aimed at acting Defence Minister Bismillah Mohammadi and other politicians. Government forces battled the unidentified gunmen for more than four hours. Mohammadi survived.

An Afghan military spokesman said an emergency had been declared in Lashkar Gah and government forces were getting reinforcements and U.S. air support.

“Special forces have been sent to the area. They are in good morale,” armed forces spokesman General Ajmal Omar Shinwari told Reuters.

The loss of Lashkar Gah would be a huge blow for the government, which has pledged to defend strategic centres after losing many rural districts to the Taliban in recent months.

Scores of families have fled from their homes in the small city, capital of Helmand province, as government forces launched a counterattack against the Taliban.

The United Nations reported Tuesday that at least 40 civilians had been killed in Lashkar Gah in the previous 24 hours.

Taliban fighters had taken control of some radio and TV stations in the city and were moving into homes to stop people from helping government forces, residents said.

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