Kabul: At least 28 people were killed and more than 300 injured when a suicide bomber exploded near the Afghan presidential palace here on Tuesday, officials said.
Afghan security personnel arrive at the scene after a car bomb attack in Kabul. Pic/ AFP
Many of the dead were civilians, Kabul police chief Abdul Rahman Rahini said, confirming the 28 deaths.
The deafening explosion was followed by heavy gunfire as Taliban militants launched an attack.
The intended target appeared to be a Secret Service Unit tasked with protecting VIPs, officials were quoted as saying. Some reports said gunmen managed to enter the unit's perimeter.
Ismael Kawosi, head of the media department at the ministry of public health, said 327 people were wounded and rushed to hospitals following the explosion.
Tolo News reported that security forces cordoned off the area as heavy gunfire raged for some two hours after the blast.
The Secret Unit's compound is situated close to the ministry of defense in Pul-e-Mahmood Khan area.
By late morning, the security forces had largely managed to bring the situation under control, officials said.
President Ashraf Ghani condemned the incident and labelled it a terrorist attack. The Taliban group claimed responsibility.
A statement issued by the president's office said such attacks showed the insurgents' inability to tackle security forces on the battlefield face to face.
Interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said one of the attackers had been killed by security forces.
A Tolo News correspondent at the scene reported that special forces were deployed to the area to bring the situation under control. Security forces were also seen on the roofs of surrounding government offices.
Widespread damage was reported to buildings and houses in the vicinity.