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Kabul charity attacked as toll from violence hits 25
[KABUL] Explosions and gunfire rang out Tuesday during an hours-long attack on a Kabul charity, the latest assault in a wave of violence in the Afghan capital that killed at least 25 people and wounded dozens.
The assault on a charity called Pamlarena began late Monday with a massive explosion, just hours after a brazen Taliban double bombing near the defence ministry - an attack apparently aimed at inflicting mass casualties.
A plume of smoke rose over the upscale neighbourhood of Shar-e Naw after the raid on the charity, which means "care" in Pashto.
Sporadic blasts and gunfire followed during the government's clearance operation early Tuesday.
A spokeswoman for Care International said the charity could not immediately confirm if it had been the target of the attack.
"Forty-two people including 10 foreigners were rescued" after the attack, interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said on Twitter, confirming at least one fatality.
"All three assailants were gunned down by security forces."
Authorities had earlier put the number of attackers at two.
No militant group has so far claimed responsibility for the raid on the charity, but it comes as the Taliban ramp up their nationwide offensive against the US-backed government.
The attack on the charity had been preceded by twin Taliban blasts that killed at least 24 people during the city's rush hour Monday, including high-level officials, and left 91 others wounded.
The second of the two explosions struck just as soldiers, policemen and civilians hurried to help the victims of the first blast, which occurred on a bridge near the ministry.
Ambulances rushed to the scene, littered with disfigured bodies and charred debris.
But there were so many bodies that some had to be taken to hospitals in car boots and the back of police pickup trucks.
Firemen raced to retrieve some bodies thrown into the Kabul River by the intensity of the first blast on the bridge.
Health ministry spokesman Waheed Majroh said the casualties from the double bombing could rise still further as some of the wounded battled for their lives in hospital.
"The enemies of Afghanistan have lost their ability to fight the security and defence forces of the country," President Ashraf Ghani said on Monday, condemning the twin blasts.
"That is why they are attacking highways, cities, mosques, schools and common people."
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Twitter the defence ministry was the object of the first attack, while police were targeted in the second.
The violence comes more than a week after 16 people were killed when militants stormed the American University in Kabul.
Earlier in August two professors from the university, an American and an Australian, were kidnapped at gunpoint near the campus.
Their whereabouts are still unknown and no group so far has publicly claimed responsibility for the abductions.
The uptick in violence in the capital comes as the Taliban escalate nationwide attacks, underscoring the worsening security situation and the heavy price paid by civilians since Nato forces ended their combat mission at the end of 2014.
Afghan forces backed by US troops are trying to head off a potential Taliban takeover of Lashkar Gah, the capital of the southern opium-rich province of Helmand.
The Taliban have also closed in on Kunduz - the northern city they briefly seized last year in their biggest military victory since the 2001 US invasion - leaving Afghan forces stretched on multiple fronts.