ISLAMABAD - Afghan officials say a massive car bomb exploded near a police compound in the capital, Kabul, Wednesday, killing at least 14 people and causing extensive damage to nearby buildings.
Deputy Interior Minister Khoshal Sadat told a news conference the blast also injured 145 people, including 92 civilians.
The Taliban swiftly took responsibly for carrying out the attack against what it claimed was an Afghan police recruitment center in a western part of the capital.
The deadly violence comes a day after the Taliban warned Afghans against participating in the upcoming presidential election.
Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said the bomber detonated his explosives-packed vehicle when security forces intercepted him at a checkpoint just outside the police station.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed civilians were neither present nor are they allowed to enter the high-security area where the recruitment center was located.
Residents said a huge plume of smoke could be seen over the city following the powerful blast.
Footage aired by Afghan television stations showed several buildings had been completely destroyed.
IS cells busted in Kabul
Separately, Afghan commando forces conducted operations Tuesday night against what officials described as two bomb-making hideouts of Islamic State in Kabul.
The Afghan intelligence agency, NDS, said in a statement the 10-hour long action killed two militants, preventing possible subversive activities in the city.
The Islamic State group’s local branch known as Khorasan Province has carried out repeated attacks in Kabul. The terrorist group also took responsibly for Sunday’s bombing of a minibus transporting staff of an Afghan television station in the city.
That attack left at least two passersby dead and injured three staffers of the news media.
Taliban threatens to disrupt vote
The United Nations says civilians continue to bear the brunt of escalating violence in Afghanistan as more than 1,500 civilians were killed and injured in July alone.
The bloodshed is likely to intensify in the days ahead as the country prepares to hold presidential elections scheduled for September 28.
On Tuesday, the Taliban threatened to disrupt the democratic process and urged Afghans to stay away from the polls, denouncing the vote as a process orchestrated by “foreign occupiers” of Afghanistan.
“The Islamic Emirate [the Taliban] instructs all its Mujahideen [reference to insurgent fighters] to stand against this theatrical and sham of a process to their full capabilities and prevent the enemy from succeeding in their malicious plans,” the Taliban announced in a statement.
While referring to its ongoing peace negotiations with the United States, the insurgent group said that instead of supporting the vote, foreign backers of the Kabul government should “dedicate their energies and financial resources” toward “establishing true peace so that…the ongoing peace process in these critical moments is not sabotaged.”
American and Taliban negotiators are currently holding an 8th round of peace talks in Doha, Qatar, amid claims of progress from both sides that they have come close to signing an agreement that would end the 18-year-old war in Afghanistan.