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Attack targeting acting Afghan defense minister left 8 dead

Afghan security personnel inspect the house of acting defense minister, following an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- An attack in an upscale neighborhood of Afghanistan's capital that targeted the country's acting defense minister left at least eight people dead and 20 wounded, authorities said Wednesday.

    A powerful explosion followed by a gun battle between Afghan security forces and insurgents took place the night before, said Interior Ministry spokesperson Mirwais Stanekzai. He said the casualty toll could rise.

    It appeared that the guesthouse of acting Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi was targeted, Stanekzai said. He said Mohammadi was not hurt.

    Mohammadi's Jamiat-e-Islami party was told the minister was not in the guesthouse and his family had been safely evacuated.

    All four attackers were shot and killed after five hours of fighting, Stanekzai said.

    No one immediately took responsibility for the attack, but it came as Taliban insurgents have been pressing ahead with an offensive that is putting pressure on the provincial capitals in the south and west of the country.

    The Islamic State group has claimed some recent attacks in Kabul but most have gone unclaimed, with the government and the Taliban blaming each other.

    Stanekzai said the blast happened in the posh Sherpur neighborhood, located in a section of the capital known as the green zone, where security is tight. It is home to several senior government officials.

    Hours after Tuesday night's attack, the Defense Ministry released a video in which Mohammadi said his guards had been wounded in a suicide attack. "I assure my beloved countrymen that such attacks cannot have any impact on my willingness to defend my countrymen and my country," he said.

    Hundreds of residents in the area were moved to safety as security personnel carried out house-to-house searches, officials said.

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