| KABUL, Sept 6
KABUL, Sept 6 Afghan security forces sealed off
the centre of Kabul on Tuesday as they battled gunmen who
barricaded themselves inside the offices of an international aid
group after a car bomb attack on Monday night.
The attack in a prosperous business and residential area of
the capital took place just hours after a Taliban suicide attack
near the Defence Ministry killed at least 24 people, including a
number of senior security officials.
Fraidoon Obaidi, chief of the Kabul police Criminal
Investigation Department, said one of the two gunmen who had
entered an office of Care International in Kabul had been killed
but another was holding out.
"We have rescued several families from the area," he said.
The attacks highlighted the precarious security climate in
the capital just a month before a conference in Brussels where
international donors are expected to pledge continued financial
support to Afghanistan.
After several hours of quiet overnight, sporadic gunfire and
explosions could be heard as day broke. Security officials
evacuated terrified civilians from their offices and homes near
the explosion site.
An Interior Ministry official said initial reports indicated
one person had been killed and six wounded in the attack, with
31 people rescued from the area.
Kabul traffic was blocked in several parts of the city and
schools in the area were closed.
On Monday, 24 people were killed and 91 wounded when twin
blasts in quick succession tore through an afternoon crowd in a
bustling area of the city close to the Defence Ministry.
The Taliban immediately claimed responsibility for that
attack, in which a suicide bomber caught security forces
personnel and civilians who rushed to help victims of the first
"When the first explosion happened people crowded to the
site and then the second blast occurred, which was really
powerful and killed lots of people," said Samiullah Safi, who
witnessed the attack.
An army general and two senior police commanders were among
the dead, a Defence Ministry official said. Another official
said the deputy head of President Ashraf Ghani's personal
protection force had also been killed.
The double bombing came less than two weeks after gunmen
attacked the American University in Kabul, killing 13 people.
It was the deadliest attack in Kabul since at least 80
people were killed by a suicide bomber who targeted a
demonstration on July 23. That assault was claimed by Islamic
The Taliban's ability to conduct coordinated high profile
attacks in Kabul has piled pressure on the Western-backed
government, which has struggled to reassure a war-weary
population that it can guarantee security.
Afghanistan's foreign partners, concerned about the ability
of the security forces to withstand Taliban violence, are
expected to pledge support over coming years at the Brussels
conference, three months after NATO members reaffirmed their
commitment at a meeting in Warsaw.
Outside Kabul, the insurgents have stepped up their military
campaign, threatening Lashkar Gah, capital of the strategic
southern province of Helmand, as well as Kunduz, the northern
city they briefly took last year.
(Additional reporting by Sayed Hassib; Writing by James
Mackenzie, Rupam Jain; Editing by Nick Macfie)