Afghanistan Blast: Explosions strike near major political gathering in Kabul
An explosion rattled a large ceremony in western Kabul Thursday, with the event abruptly cancelled and sending attendees fleeing -- including chief executive Abdullah Abdullah and other leading government officials. "Stay calm, the area of the blast is far from us," said former lower house speaker Mohammad Younus Qanooni during a live broadcast of the event.
But moments after the announcement, another explosion could be heard that sent people running for the exit. The explosion happened during a ceremony marking the 24th anniversary of the death of Shiite Hazara leader Abdul Ali Mazari that was attended by many of the country's political elite, including Abdullah and former President Hamid Karzai.
No group has claimed responsibility for the blast and no casualties have been reported. The incident comes as US and Taliban negotiations continue to hold peace talks in Qatar aimed at ending the nearly 18-year conflict.
The last major attack in Kabul occurred in January when the Taliban-claimed responsibility for a car bomb that struck the heavily fortified Green Village foreign compound. Heavy snowfall across large swathes of Afghanistan has led to a reduction in violence this winter, but warmer weather in the country's south will likely spark an increase in bloodshed with the arrival of the spring fighting season.
Analysts have warned that the Taliban are likely to ramp up attacks in the coming months as they seek to maintain momentum on the battlefield and leverage at the negotiating table.