Powerful explosion and gunfire reported near Kabul’s diplomatic area

Witnesses reported exchange of heavy gunfire after the explosion which occurred near the Afghan capital’s diplomatic quarters, its National Directorate of Security and a busy market square.

A powerful blast followed by sporadic gunfire has hit Afghanistan’s capital Kabul near the city’s heavily fortified “Green Zone”, an area home to government buildings and foreign embassies, police officials said.

Tuesday’s blast appeared to have been caused by a car bomb and the apparent target was the residence of a member of parliament, a senior security official said.

Two gunmen were still in the area and clashing with Afghan security forces, the official said.

The city’s Emergency Hospital said in a tweet it had so far received six people wounded in the attack.

Clashes between Afghan forces and the Taliban have intensified across the country with the insurgent group gaining control over check points, trading posts and infrastructure projects.

Afghanistan’s ministers of defence and interior, as well as the spy chief, quit on Saturday, government sources said, following the resignation of the president’s national security adviser earlier in the day.

“We have received four resignations by two ministers and two senior security officials,” an official in President Ashraf Ghani’s office said.

Government sources said the new resignations were from Defence Minister Tariq Shah Bahrami and Interior Minister Wais Barmak, as well as Masoom Stanekzai, the head of the National Directorate of Security. They followed a decision by National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar to quit.

Officials working directly with the two ministers and Stanekzai were not immediately available to comment.

But two senior interior ministry officials said the country’s top security officials cited differences with the government over policy amid the deteriorating security situation as the main reason for resigning.

Heavy fighting between Taliban insurgents and Afghan forces across the country this year, as well as repeated suicide attacks in Kabul and other major cities, have underlined the dire security situation facing Afghanistan.

With parliamentary elections due on October 20, authorities had been bracing for more attacks. But even so, the scale of the violence has shocked government officials, who are facing bitter criticism over their handling of the war.

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