24 dead in Kabul car bomb attack claimed by Taliban

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Footwear of victims are seen on the ground as Afghan residents inspect the site of a car bomb attack in western Kabul on July 24, 2017. At least 24 people have been killed and 42 wounded after a car bomb struck a bus carrying government employees in western Kabul on July 24, an official told AFP, the latest attack to strike the Afghan capital. / AFP PHOTO / WAKIL KOHSAR (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)

(CNN) — The Taliban has claimed responsibility for a car bombing in Kabul that left at least 24 people dead, as it ratchets up an offensive across Afghanistan.

The blast occurred at around 6:40 a.m. local time (10:10 pm ET) on Monday, when a Toyota Corolla exploded in the city’s west, Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish told CNN.

It is the latest in a string of attacks in recent days by the Taliban, which said it had captured two districts in northern and central Afghanistan at the weekend.

In a statement released by Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, the group said the Kabul bomb’s target was a bus carrying Afghan intelligence staff, but Danish authorities said that all the victims were civilians, including some employees of the Ministry of Mining and Petroleum. Women and children were among the dozens injured, the Danes said.

A witness told CNN he saw injured people in the streets and others yelling in the bombing’s aftermath.

“In the morning I was sleeping when I heard a loud boom, which woken me up,” said 33-year-old Safiullah, who gave only his first name.

He looked out of a window in his home and saw plumes of smoke rising from the site as people ran in a panic.

Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and President Ashraf Ghani both condemned the attack.

“I strongly condemn the terrorist attack on civil servants in Kabul today,” Abdullah said in a tweet.

“Our security institutes will hold perpetrators accountable.”

Ghani’s office said in statement: “The enemy of Afghanistan can’t face our forces in battle field so they target innocent civilians.”

The uptick in violence comes as US President Donald Trump mulls sending more troops to Afghanistan, amid no signs that the Taliban is weakening.

There are about 8,400 US troops in the country at the moment. The US counter-terrorism mission there, which also fights ISIS, is separate from a NATO-led effort to train, advise and assist the Afghan army and police force to fight the Taliban.

More than 1,600 civilians were killed in Afghanistan in the first half of the year, UN figures show, a record high in the 16-year war.