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Taliban claims responsibility for bombing of compound for foreigners in Kabul

Afghan police black a road leading to the site of an explosion, in Kabul, Afghanistan Monday, Aug. 1, 2016.
Afghan police block a road leading to the site of an explosion in Kabul.
(Massoud Hossaini / Associated Press)

A massive explosion, caused by a bombing at a residential compound for foreigners, rocked the Afghan capital early Monday morning, authorities said. The Taliban claimed responsibility, and there were conflicting reports about casualties.

The blast occurred at 1:25 a.m. at the Northgate compound, known for housing foreign contractors, east of Kabul’s international airport.

“We are in touch with the residents in the compound and there have been no casualties so far,” Deputy Police Chief Sayed Gul Aqa Rohani said several hours later. “All Afghan security forces are standby and assessing the condition, then will launch an operation soon.”

An Afghan police officer near the scene of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan.
An Afghan police officer near the scene of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan.
(Sultan Faizy / Los Angeles Times )
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In an email, the Taliban said “a Mazda type of truck full of explosives targeted the Northgate guesthouse and some other armed suicide attackers stormed the compound following the blast and the operation is going on.”

A later statement from the Taliban added: “As the powerful explosion destroyed all security barriers and a large part of the building, a team of martyrdom seekers armed with heavy and light weapons, flame throwers, rocket launchers and machine guns entered the hotel and began engaging the remaining foreigners.”

That statement claimed the assault had killed or wounded more than 100 foreigners, but the Taliban often wildly exaggerates its claims.

Afghan security forces were exchanging fire with the apparent assailants. The area was cordoned off by police.

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A police official from Kabul’s 9th precinct said Crisis Response Unit, National Directorate Security and police forces were trying to reach the guesthouse, but were hampered by the dark and gunfire coming from within the compound. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

The scene near a compound for foreigners in Kabul, Afghanistan.
The scene near a compound for foreigners in Kabul, Afghanistan.
(Sultan Faizy / Los Angeles Times )

Such guesthouses have been a common target of Taliban attacks. The Northgate compound reportedly had been attacked before in 2013.

On July 23, the Islamic State extremist group claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a demonstration in Kabul that killed at least 81 people and injured more than 250. That attack was among the most lethal since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.

Faizy is a special correspondent.

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UPDATES:

6:35 p.m.: This article was updated with a new statement from the Taliban.

6:15 p.m.: This article was updated with background information.

4:45 p.m.: This article was updated with police comment and details.

This article was originally posted at 3:55 p.m.


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