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Car bomb heard in central Kabul, casualties feared

KABUL, (AFP): A car bomb tore into central Kabul on Thursday, with casualties feared in yet another attack on the Afghan capital as the US and Taliban negotiate a deal to see American troops leave the country.

The blast shook Shash Darak, a heavily fortified area adjacent to the Green Zone and home to several important complexes including the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the Afghan intelligence service.

“We confirm an explosion in the Shash Darak area” at about 10:10 am (0540 GMT), interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said, adding the blast had been caused by a car bomb.

An Afghan security official told AFP there had been casualties, and that the blast took place near a checkpoint. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Massoud Zazai, who owns a photo studio across the street from the blast site, said he was in his shop when the explosion happened.

“I fell off my chair and it got dark inside the shop because of smoke and dust,” Zazai told AFP.

“I went out to the scene moments after the attack, the side of the road was littered with debris and bodies.”

Through the smoke, Zazai said he could hear injured people crying and calling for their mothers and brothers.

“I saw at last five very badly injured, one was covered in blood and not moving. It was horrifying.”

On Monday, at least 16 people were killed in a Taliban attack on a residential area in east Kabul.

The capital has been gripped by a surge in deadly violence even after the US and the Taliban reached an agreement “in principle” that would see the Pentagon pull thousands of troops from Afghanistan in return for various Taliban security promises.

But there is increasing unease about the deal, with Afghans fearing it will lead to a return of the Taliban to power, and a growing chorus of US lawmakers and officials expressing doubts.

According to parts of the deal made public so far, the Pentagon would pull about 5,000 of its 13,000 or so troops from five bases across Afghanistan by early next year, provided the Taliban hew to their security pledges.

The insurgents have said they will renounce Al-Qaeda, fight the Islamic State group and stop jihadists using Afghanistan as a safe haven.

On Wednesday, the Afghan government expressed doubts about the prospective deal, saying officials need more information about the risks it poses.

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