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Afghan official: Blast shakes Kabul, possible attack

By Lynne O’Donnell Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan – A strong explosion took place early Monday near a guesthouse for foreigners in Kabul, an Afghan police official said.

It was not immediately clear what caused the blast, which shook much of the capital at 1:25 a.m. on Monday. The blast was followed by widespread power outages.

Gul Agha Rohani, Kabul’s deputy chief of police, said the blast happened east of the city’s international airport.

Rohani named the Northgate Hotel, which houses international contractors, without further details.

An email message from Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the insurgents had attacked that hotel.

The message to media outlets said the hotel was targeted by a truck bomb and casualties were high. The Taliban regularly exaggerates the impact of attacks.

A man who answered the phone at the hotel said there had been a large explosion at the facility.

“We have 100 percent accountability,” he said, before cutting the line.

Foreign guesthouses have been a regular target of insurgent attacks since the Taliban began their war to topple the Kabul government.

The Northgate is typical of many pre-fabricated compounds that offer secure accommodation to foreign workers. It is near the Bagram Air Base and has been attacked by insurgents at least once before, in July 2013.

Monday’s blast follows a suicide attack on a peaceful demonstration on July 23 that killed more than 80 people and wounded hundreds.

That attack was claimed by the Islamic State group, its first in the Afghan capital and the biggest in Kabul since the Taliban launched their insurgency in 2001.

The interior and defense ministries were not immediately available for comment.

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