Smokes rises after an explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Monday.
Afghan security forces on Monday were battling Taliban gunmen who stormed a building in the capital, Kabul, after a bomb-laden truck exploded near the defence ministry at rush hour, injuring at least 100 people, including 35 children, officials said.
For hours after the attack, sporadic gunfire and explosions could be heard in the area, cordoned off by special forces. At least three gunmen entered a building around the defence ministry after the blast, a government security official said.
Dozens of people were wounded with fatalities feared as a powerful car bomb rocked Kabul and gunmen battled special forces in an area housing military and government buildings, officials said.
The rush-hour explosion sent a plume of smoke into the air above the Puli Mahmood Khan neighbourhood of the Afghan capital and shook buildings up to two kilometres (1.2 miles) away, with the media reporter saying he could hear gunshots after the blast.
"At first, a car bomb took place and then several attackers took over a building. The area is cordoned off by the police special forces and (they) are bringing down the attackers," interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said.
Health ministry spokesman Wahidullah Mayar tweeted that 65 wounded people, including nine children, had been taken to hospital. He warned that casualties could rise.
The area was quickly blocked off by Afghan forces and ambulances, with helicopter gunships seen overhead as firing continued.
The heavily-secured neighbourhood is home to some military and government buildings, including one shared by Afghanistan's intelligence agency and defence ministry, as well as the Afghan Football Federation and Cricket Board.
"We were sitting inside the office when the world turned upside down on us," Zaher Usman, an employee at a branch of the culture ministry, which he said stands just 150 metres (yards) from the blast.
"At first, a car bomb took place and then several attackers took over a building. The area is cordoned off by the police special forces and (they) are bringing down the attackers.
He said the blast appeared to have occurred near Gulbahar Tower, which contains a shopping mall and residential units and is next to a government building.
"When I opened my eyes, the office was filled with smoke and dust and everything was broken, my colleagues were screaming," Usman told AFP by telephone.
Police said they do not yet know the target.
Shams Amini, a football federation spokesman, told AFP that the blast occurred near their HQ gates.
"Some of our colleagues are trapped inside, we have reports of some injuries. We don't know if the attackers have entered the building," he said.
Nearby Shamshad TV station, which was attacked in 2017, aired images of broken glass and damage to its offices but said it was not the target.
The nearby "Green Zone" diplomatic area was briefly put on lockdown, but later opened again.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but both the Taliban and the so-called Islamic State group are active in Kabul.
The explosion came two days after the Taliban and the US began their seventh round of talks in Qatar as Washington eyes a breakthrough before Afghanistan's September presidential election.
The negotiations have so far centred on four issues — counter-terrorism, the foreign troop presence, an intra-Afghan dialogue and a permanent ceasefire.
A potential deal would see the US agree to withdraw its troops after more than 17 years in Afghanistan, igniting deep concerns among huge swathes of Afghans who fear the militants will return to some semblance of power.
"The target was the defence ministry's technical installation.
In return, the Taliban would guarantee the country would never again become a safe haven for violent extremist groups, as happened with Al-Qaeda before the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Taliban claim responsibility
A blast in the Afghan capital on Monday was part of an attack by Taliban fighters targeting the defence ministry compound in Kabul, the Islamist militant group said in a statement.
"The target was the defence ministry's technical installation," a Taliban official said in the statement, adding that the blast injured several Taliban fighters, civilians and government employees.
A plume of smoke rose over central Kabul shortly after midnight and sirens could be heard. Inside the embassy, employees heard this message over the loudspeaker: "An explosion caused by a rocket has occurred on compound."
Green Village is separate from the nearby Green Zone, a walled-off and heavily fortified part of Kabul that is home to several embassies including the US and British facilities.
Daesh said one of its fighters blew himself up at a "large gathering" in Kabul while others "detonated a parked explosives-laden vehicle" when security forces arrived, in a statement posted on the Telegram messaging app.
The decision was made in order to facilitate intensified sterilization procedures in the area, due to the high density of its population.
Worldwide, more than 788,000 people have been infected and 166,000 have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University. Italy's death toll rose to nearly 11,600 — the highest in the world by far — but its rates of new infections were slowing.
Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said 3,111 new infections have been confirmed over the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 44,606. He said 3,703 of those hospitalised are in a critical condition and 14,656 have recovered.
The announcement brings the country's tally of confirmed virus cases up to 289, according to ministry's spokesman Dr. Abdullah Al-Sanad. In addition, 216 virus patients are still receiving necessary treatment, while 13 others are in intensive care units.