Loud explosion, gunfire rock downtown Kabul: Officials

Tehran, April 20, IRNA – A loud explosion and follow-up gunfire were heard in an ongoing assault near the Afghan communication ministry in central Kabul on Saturday, officials said.

The blast followed by gunfire took place near the communications ministry building in one of the city's busiest areas.

An explosion followed by gunfire hit the centre of the Afghan capital Kabul, close to one of the city's main hotels and the communications ministry building, officials said.

'Around 11:40 am [07:10GMT], an explosion [was] heard near the communication ministry, and sporadic fires have also been heard in the area,' interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said on Saturday.

Intermittent firing could be heard more than 30 minutes after the blast, and the area had been cordoned off by security forces, official media reported.

The communications ministry is located in Kabul's second police district, one of the busiest spots in the city, about two kilometres from the green zone.

The explosion was also close to the heavily-fortified Serena Hotel, one of the few hotels still used by foreign visitors, in one of the main commercial areas of the city.

There was no immediate word on the cause of the blast or of any casualties. No group has claimed responsibility yet.

This week in the Qatari capital Doha, a summit planned between the Taliban and officials from across Afghanistan fell apart at the last minute due to bickering over who should attend the conference.

The collapse comes at a critical time and amid continued bloodshed in Afghanistan, where the Taliban now control or influence about half of Afghanistan and 3,804 civilians were killed there last year, according to a UN tally.

Taliban officials are separately negotiating with the United States, which wants to forge a peace deal with the militants.

6125**1424

Follow us on Twitter @IrnaEnglish