Blast followed by gunfire reported in Afghan capital

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An explosion followed by gunfire was reported in the center of the Afghan capital Kabul on Saturday, close to one of the city’s main hotels and the ministry of communications and information technology, a police spokesman said.

There was no immediate word on the cause of the blast or of any casualties in one of the main commercial areas of the city.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi confirmed gunfire around the ministry of communications and information technology but had no further details. The communication ministry is located in downtown Kabul, about two kilometers (1.25 miles) from the green zone. It is the city's main commercial area and has several large hotels.

The communication ministry itself is an 18-storey building, thought to be the tallest building in Kabul.

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

While heavy fighting has carried on across Afghanistan and Taliban militants have announced their now customary spring offensive, there have been no large scale attacks on civilian targets in Kabul in recent weeks.

The capital has enjoyed a period of relative calm, after a horrific year last year in which it saw a string of attacks including a massive bomb that was concealed in an ambulance and killed more than 100 people.

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.

(With Agencies)

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