At least seven killed in suicide blast near Afghan ministry

Reuters/Mohammad Ismail

An apparent suicide attack close to a government ministry in the Afghan capital Kabul on Sunday killed at least seven people and wounded more than 15 as staff were leaving the office in the evening rush hour, officials said.

The attack was the latest in a seemingly unending series of blasts against civilian targets in Kabul and other major cities including Jalalabad, which has seen three major attacks in the past two weeks alone.

“Apparently a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest at the gate of our ministry,” said Fraidoon Azhand, a spokesman at the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development.

The target was our staff who were leaving to their homes,” he said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility and it was not immediately clear why the ministry, which was attacked just over a month ago, had been targeted.

Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanekzai said at least seven people, including civilians and members of the security forces had been killed and more than 15 wounded in the attack, which also damaged a vehicle belonging to foreign advisers to the ministry.

Stanekzai said most of the casualties were ministry staff. He had no information on any casualties among the advisers.

Although the casualties reported were relatively limited compared with many other attacks, for people at the site still seeking information about family members, the attack was nontheless devastating.

“I’ve come here and trying to find my son, I am really worried,” said Sayed Ashraf, whose son worked at the ministry.

“I went to the hospital but I couldn’t find him there and now I am waiting here to find him, I’m trying to reach him on the phone but his phone is switched off.”

Earlier on Sunday, the United Nations reported a record number of civilian deaths from the conflict in Afghanistan, with a 22 percent jump in casualties from suicide attacks during the first half of the year.

Following last month’s brief ceasefire over the three-day Eid holiday, President Ashraf Ghani has repeated his offer of peace talks with the Taliban and there has been growing optimism that a breakthrough may be possible.

But the Taliban, who say the Western-backed government in Kabul is illegitimate, have so far rebuffed the appeal and insisted that international troops must leave Afghanistan for talks to begin.