KABUL – A car bomb detonated in the Afghan capital of Kabul during Wednesday’s morning commute, killing seven people and wounding at least seven more, officials announced. Nasrat Rahimi, the spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry, said the blast occurred in the Qasaba area of the city and the number of casualties could rise, Al-Jazeera reported.
Rahimi added that the target of the attack was not immediately clear and that an investigation was underway at the scene, noting that the dead were all civilians. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but both the Taliban and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, ISIS or Daesh) are active in the capital and have claimed earlier attacks in Kabul.
Ambulances sirens could be heard, and a giant plume of smoke rose from the area following the explosion. The blast came a day after the President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, announced that Kabul would release three high-ranking Taliban prisoners in an apparent prisoner swap with Western hostages who were kidnapped by the group in 2016.
The three Taliban prisoners include Anas Haqqani, who was seized in 2014 and whose older brother is the deputy Taliban leader and head of the Haqqani network, a Taliban affiliate. Ghani did not specify the fate of the Western hostages – an Australian and an American, both professors at the American University in Kabul – and it was not clear when or where they would be freed.
Ghani stated on Tuesday that he hoped the decision would help “pave the way” for the start of unofficial direct talks between his government and the Taliban, who have long refused to negotiate with the administration in Kabul. It should be noted that the Taliban are on the offensive again and the group is already in control over most of the country.