15 Aug 2009

Taliban suicide bomber hits Kabul

10:46 pm on 15 August 2009

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for a large suicide car bomb that killed seven people in the Afghan capital on Saturday.

The attack - in Kabul's most secure district - came five days before an election the Islamist group has vowed to disrupt.

Afghanistan's Defence Ministry said nearly 100 people were wounded in the blast which took place outside the headquarters of the NATO-led international force.

A spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force said there were some casualties among foreign troops.

The Taliban says the target was the nearby United States embassy.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid has told the Reuters news agency the car could not get close enough to the US embassy and instead exploded near the ISAF headquarters.

The presidential palace and several embassies are also located in the heavily fortified zone where the bombing took place.

Witnesses say the huge blast rocked the heart of the city, sending plumes of smoke into the sky, just days before the presidential and provincial elections on 20 August.

The Taliban, stronger than at any time since they were driven from power eight years ago, have vowed to strike polling stations and threatened reprisals against voters.

They have called on Afghans to boycott Thursday's election and instead join their campaign for "independence".