KABUL: An explosion rocked central Kabul today and a thick plume of black smoke could be seen rising from near several Afghan government ministries and security agencies, as well as the US embassy in the capital, witnesses and officials said.
There were no immediate reports of casualties but warning sirens blared out from around the area, which is also close to the headquarters of the main NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.
A Reuters witness near the scene also reported hearing gunfire more than half an hour after the blast. Kabul police also reported some gunfire in the area immediately after the blast, which happened during the morning rush hour.
Several major Afghan security agencies are based in the area, including the National Directorate of Security. The Ministry of Defence and the presidential palace are also within a few hundred metres.
There was no indication of what caused the blast, nor any claim of responsibility, although both the Taliban and the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network have carried out attacks in the city in the past.
The Taliban-led insurgency has gained strength since the withdrawal of international forces from combat at the end of 2014 and the Taliban are stronger than at any point since they were driven from power by US-backed forces in 2001.
The US embassy said it was not affected by the blast. The NATO-led force also said it was unaffected.