The group calls it the beginning of ‘retaliatory attacks’ against govt. personnel for the recent air strikes
The Taliban on Wednesday claimed responsibility for a huge bomb attack in Kabul targeting the Defence Minister, as the insurgents fought for control of a string of besieged cities across the country.
The bomb-and-gun attack on Defence Minister Bismillah Mohammadi on Tuesday was one of the biggest in Kabul for months, bringing violence to the capital after intense fighting in the south and west of the country.
The Afghan and U.S. militaries have carried out air strikes against the insurgents to push them back, and the Taliban said the Kabul attack was a response to that.
“The attack is the beginning of the retaliatory operations against the circles and leaders of the Kabul administration who are ordering attacks and the bombing of different parts of the country,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement on social media. It represents a major escalation by the Taliban, who have largely refrained from large-scale attacks in the capital in recent years after starting talks with the United States on troop withdrawal.
The first bomb exploded in the centre of Kabul, sending a thick plume of smoke into the sky, AFP correspondents reported.
Less than two hours later, there was another loud blast followed by smaller explosions and rapid gunfire, also near the high-security Green Zone that houses several embassies, including the U.S. mission.
The Minister was safe and Afghan forces repelled the attackers, but at least eight people were killed, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Mirwais Stanikzai.
Mr. Mohammadi later said it was a suicide car bomb attack targeting his house.
The Taliban threat came after the Afghan military launched a counterattack against the insurgents in the southern city of Lashkar Gah.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch accused the Taliban of “summarily” executing detained soldiers, police and civilians with alleged ties to the Afghan government in areas they had recently seized.
The rights group said it had also obtained a list of 44 people who were killed by the Taliban in the town of Spin Boldak, which the insurgents captured last month along the border with Pakistan.