kabul bomb blast, afganistan.jpg
Photograph: EPA/JAWED KAGAR

Dozens of people, including civilians and Afghan security personnel, were killed and over 300 others were injured Tuesday in an attack claimed by the Taliban in central Kabul, officials said.

It was the first such attack in the capital since the Taliban launched its nationwide spring offensive.

“The area has been cleared of insurgents and the attack is over,” said Basir Mujahid, a spokesman for the Kabul police.

The assault began with a suicide truck bombing that targeted a compound of the VIP Protection Unit Directorate - housing security personnel for high-ranking Afghan officials - and it was followed by a gunfight.

Mujahid said 28 people had been killed, almost all civilians.

In addition, security forces' personnel also died in the attack, according to a dpa source in the directorate, which used to belong to the NSD national intelligence agency.

"At least 15 personnel were killed in the incident," the source told dpa, speaking anonymously.

He was not allowed to speak to the media or the Ministry of Interior about the casualties, said the source, a bodyguard for a senior politician, who had spoken to colleagues at the scene.

At least one attacker exchanged gunfire with security forces after the bombing, which struck a crowded area in the heart of Kabul.

President Ashraf Ghani condemned the attack, which he said "clearly shows the enemy's defeat in face-to-face battle" with national security forces.

Speaking about the attack in The Hague, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said: "There is absolutely no justification for attacks on civilian and security people."

Taliban militants claimed responsibility for the attack online.

"Following the first blast, a number of mujahideen entered the directorate, fighting ensued, and there were heavy casualties to the slave enemy," spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Twitter.

The attack was the deadliest in the capital since a truck bomb in August killed 15 and wounded more than 200 people.

The Taliban announced the start of their spring offensive last week before launching coordinated attacks in several provinces.

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