16 dead, more than 100 wounded in Taliban blast on Kabul

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The death toll from a massive blast claimed by the Taliban in Kabul has risen to 16 people -- all civilians -- with scores more wounded, an official said Tuesday.

“Sixteen killed, 119 wounded in last night’s attack. The explosion was caused by a tractor filled with explosives,” interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the large explosion in the Afghan capital on Monday night, just hours after a US envoy briefed the Afghan government on an agreement “in principle” with the insurgent group that would see 5,000 US troops leave the country in five months.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahmi confirmed that the target of the blast was the Green Village compound, an area that is home to several international organizations and guesthouses. The explosion sent a plume of smoke into the night sky over Kabul and caused a nearby gasoline station to burst into flames.

At least 34 wounded people were taken to the nearby Wazir Akbar Khan hospital alone, said Dr. Nezamudin Jalil, an official with the public health ministry.

The Green Village, home to many foreigners and heavily guarded by Afghan forces and private security guards, has been a frequent target.

That blast occurred when the US envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, was visiting the capital to brief the Afghan government on his negotiations with the Taliban on ending America’s longest war.

Monday’s latest blast occurred during the final minutes of a nationally televised interview with Khalilzad on what a US-Taliban deal might mean for Afghanistan’s future.

The loud explosion rocked Kabul, shaking windows and doors in houses several kilometers away from the blast, Reuters witnesses heard.

The sound of gunfire could also be heard in the aftermath of the explosion. A cloud of white smoke could be seen spiraling into the sky over the area, which has been hit repeatedly by suicide bombers.