Two Taliban suicide bombers blew themselves up close to the Afghan defence ministry in Kabul during late afternoon rush hour, killing at least 24 people and wounding 91 others, according to health ministry officials.

“It happened in the center of town, just about 4 pm, a very busy time” said Al Jazeera’s Jennifer Glasse, reporting from Kabul.

“The ministry of defense, the ministry of finance, police district two headquarters are all in this area.There are also markets around there, that sell clothes, food and fresh fruit.”

Monday’s blasts took place in rapid succession, in an attack apparently aimed at inflicting mass casualties as government workers left the ministry after work.

“Eye witnesses say there was a first blast,” said Glasse. “When people came to either help the wounded or see what has happened there, the second explosion went off.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Twitter that the defence ministry was the object of the first attack, while police were targeted in the second.

The bombings come as Taliban fighters intensify their nationwide offensive against the US-backed government in Kabul.

The toll from could rise further, Mohammad Ismail Kawousi, a spokesman for the public health ministry, said.

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“The first explosion occurred on a bridge near the defence ministry. When soldiers, policemen and civilians rushed to the scene, there was the second explosion,” defence ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanish told AFP news agency.

President Ashraf Ghani strongly condemned the attack.

“The enemies of Afghanistan are losing the fight in the ground battle with security forces,” Ghani said in a statement. “That is why they are attacking, highways, cities, mosques, schools and ordinary people.”

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The attack took place more than a week after 16 people were killed when armed fighters stormed the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul, in a nearly 10-hour raid that prompted anguished pleas for help from trapped students.

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Explosions and gunfire rocked the campus in that attack, which came just weeks after two university professors – an American and an Australian – were kidnapped at gunpoint near the school.

Their whereabouts are still unknown and no group so far has publicly claimed responsibility for the abductions, the latest in a series of kidnappings in the conflict-torn country.

The increase in violence in the capital comes as the Taliban escalate nationwide attacks, underscoring the worsening security situation since NATO forces ended their combat mission at the end of 2014.

Afghan forces backed by US troops are seeking to head off a potential Taliban takeover of Lashkar Gah, the capital of the southern opium-rich province of Helmand.

The Taliban has also closed in on Kunduz – the northern city they briefly seized last year in their biggest military victory since the 2001 US invasion – leaving Afghan forces stretched on multiple fronts.

But NATO coalition forces have insisted that neither Kunduz nor Lashkar Gah are at risk of falling to the insurgents.

 

Source: Al Jazeera News and agencies

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