At least 53 wounded as powerful car bomb rocks Kabul

Powerful Explosion Rocks Afghanistan Near U.S. Embassy

The attack is an example of increasingly frequent "complex assaults" in which militants create chaos with an initial blast, then storm a sensitive building, which leads to an hours-long gun battle, extending the bloodshed.

Fifty-one children in two schools near the blast site were hurt by flying shards of glass, said Nooria Nazhat, a spokeswoman of the education ministry.

The Taliban claimed the attack, which came as the insurgents were holding their latest round of talks with US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in the Gulf state of Qatar, where they have a political office.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that by attacking civilians the Taliban was guilty of a crime against humanity.

Ambulances rushed to the scene and ferried at least 65 injured people to hospitals, including at least nine children, the Afghan health ministry spokesman said shortly after the bombing.

"The target was the defence ministry's technical installation", the Islamist militants' spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said in a statement.

AFP reporters could hear gunshots and multiple smaller explosions as fighting continued almost seven hours after the first blast.

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'We were sitting inside the office when the world turned upside down on us, ' Zaher Usman, an employee at a branch of the culture ministry, which he said stands just 150 yards from the blast.

'When I opened my eyes, the office was filled with smoke and dust and everything was broken, my colleagues were screaming, ' Usman said.

There was a heavy police presence in Kabul as security forces secured the city and ambulances took the injured to hospital. Moreover, one of the Afghan Ministry of Defense buildings is located near the place where the blast went off. The Taliban, who have also carried out scores of attacks in Kabul, said they had no claim of responsibility for the blast.

Suhail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban's political office in Doha, told The Associated Press on Monday that "our main concern is to make sure a timeline for troop pullout is announced".

"Once the timeline for the withdrawal of foreign forces is set in the presence of global observers, then we will begin the talks to the Afghan sides, but we will not talk to the Kabul administration as a government", Suhail Shaheen tweeted.

A potential deal has emerged that would see foreign troops withdraw in return for insurgents guaranteeing that Afghan territory would not be used as a base by foreign militants.

In return the Taliban would guarantee the country would never again become a safe haven for violent groups, as happened with Al-Qaeda before the September 11, 2001 attacks. The announcement is likely to be accompanied by a Taliban promise to hold intra-Afghan talks and agree to an eventual cease-fire.

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