A powerful explosion rocked an upscale neighbourhood of Afghanistan's capital Tuesday in an attack that apparently targeted the country's acting defense minister. At least 10 people were wounded but the minister was unharmed in the thus far unclaimed attack, a health official said.
Following this, the Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammed Hanif Atmar spoke to his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar to explore the possibility of convening an emergency session of the UN Security Council (UNSC) to discuss ways to stop the Taliban's violence and human rights abuses in Afghanistan.
Explosion in Kabul's green zone
Several smaller explosions could be heard as well as small arms fire. It was unclear if the wounded were hurt in the explosion or by gunfire.
No one immediately took responsibility for the attack but it came as Taliban insurgents have been pressing ahead with an offensive that is putting pressure on the provincial capitals in the south and west of the country.
Interior Ministry spokesman Mirwais Stanekzai said the blast happened in the posh Sherpur neighbourhood, which is in a deeply secure section of the capital known as the green zone. It is home to several senior government officials.
Stanekzai said it appeared the guesthouse of acting Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi was targeted in the attack. His Jamiat-e-Islami party was told the minister was not in the guesthouse and his family had been safely evacuated.
However, Mohammadi said in a tweet on Tuesday, "Do not worry, everything is fine!"
A party leader and former vice president, Younus Qanooni, reassured the party in a message shared on social media that the minister and his family were safe.
The defence ministry released a video in which Mohammadi says that his guards had been wounded in a suicide attack. "I assure my beloved countrymen that such attacks cannot have any impact on my willingness to defend my countrymen and my country,” he says.
Details of the attack were sketchy even as it ended but it appeared that gunmen had entered the area after the explosion. Stanekzai said all four attackers were eventually killed by security personnel and a clean-up operation was conducted by police. All roads leading to the minister's house and guesthouse were closed, he said.
Hundreds of residents in the area were moved to safety, said Ferdaws Faramarz, spokesman for the Kabul police chief. He said security personnel had also carried out house-to-house searches.
At least 10 people were wounded in the attack and were taken to hospitals in the capital, said Health Ministry spokesman Dastgir Nazari.
The Islamic State group has claimed some recent attacks in Kabul but most have gone unclaimed, with the government blaming the Taliban and the Taliban blaming the government.
Afghanistan seeks India's help to raise issue in UNSC
The Afghan foreign ministry said Atmar talked about the escalating violence by the Taliban and foreign terrorist groups in Afghanistan and called for a meeting of the UNSC to discuss the situation.
"Called Indian FM HE @DrSJaishankar to discuss convening an emergency UN Security Council Session on AFG," Atmar said on Twitter.
"UN & int'l community must play a greater role to stop the unfolding tragedy in Afghanistan due to Taliban violence & atrocities. Appreciate the lead role of India as current UNSC President," he said.
India holds the presidency of the UNSC for the month of August.
In a statement, the Afghan foreign ministry said Atmar described the Taliban's attacks in "collusion with foreign fighters and terrorist groups" as a violation of international law and talked about their possible consequences on the region's stability and security.
It said Atmar spoke to Jaishankar on the escalating violence and widespread human rights violations by the Taliban and the foreign terrorist groups.
He proposed that a special UNSC meeting be held with a focus on the immediate cessation of violence in Afghanistan, according to the statement.
The Afghan foreign ministry said Jaishankar expressed India's deep concern over the escalation in violence and human rights violations in Afghanistan and called for steps to ensure peace in the country.
The Taliban has been making rapid advances across Afghanistan by resorting to widespread violence since the United States began withdrawing its troops from the country on May 1. The US has already pulled back the majority of its forces and is looking to complete the drawdown by August 31.
India has been a major stakeholder in the peace and stability of Afghanistan. It has already invested nearly USD 3 billion in aid and reconstruction activities in the war-ravaged country.
India has been supporting a national peace and reconciliation process that is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.
It has also been calling upon all sections of the political spectrum in Afghanistan to work together to meet the aspirations of all people in the country, including those from the minority communities, for a prosperous and safe future.