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Blast hits Kabul amid Taliban campaign in Afghanistan

A car bomb has exploded in Afghanistan's capital followed by a series of gunfire, said officials. The attack comes as security forces struggle to cope with a nationwide campaign striking government and foreign targets.

A massive blast occurred in Kabul's affluent neighborhood of Sherpur on Friday evening. The blast was followed by gunfire, according to media reports.

"A car bomb hit Sherpur, but the exact target is not immediately clear," said Fraidoon Obaidi, chief of the Afghan National Police's Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

"The attackers are firing gunshots, it's very dark and we are trying to be cautious," Obaidi added.

The attack reportedly targeted a guest house attached to the Spanish Embassy in Kabul. A spokesman for the Taliban said that the attack targeted "an invader's guest house," according to Reuters news agency.

At least seven Afghans were transported to a hospital due to injuries, reported DPA news agency.

The assault in Kabul comes as the Taliban launched a brutal offensive across Afghanistan, making gains in the provinces of Kandahar and Helmand.

Earlier this week, the militant group - which was ousted from power in 2001 by a US-led invasion - conducted a 27-hour siege on the airport of Kandahar, Afghanistan's second-largest city.

The Kandahar airport is known as the country's largest military installation in southern Afghanistan.

Some 50 civilians, police officers and security personnel were killed in the attack, prompting fears of the militant group's ability to launch significant attacks on government and foreign targets in the country.

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Fleeing the Taliban

Crisis on the horizon?

This week witnessed President Ashraf Ghani in Pakistan for the Heart of Asia conference, which sought to bolster peace talks between Afghanistan and the Taliban.

Peace talks broke down following the group's announcement of leader Mullah Omar's death in July. The militant leader's death also caused a rift within the Taliban, prompted by controversy over Omar's successor.

Ghani's visit to Pakistan was also highlighted by the resignation of Afghanistan's spy chief Rahmatullah Nabil, who cited a "lack of agreement on some policy matters" with the president.

"I am very concerned with the security situation when the Taliban are able to overrun or threaten our provinces and when we have no head of defense or intelligence," said Afghan MP Farhad Sediqi, following Nabil's resignation, reported Reuters news agency.

Preaching a more extreme version of Islamist militancy, the "Islamic State" has also gained traction in Afghanistan, with some defecting members of the Taliban joining its ranks.

ls/jil (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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