Car bomb followed by gun battle leaves eight dead and 20 wounded in Afghanistan

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The Taliban has claimed responsibility for a car bomb attack in Afghanistan's capital which targeted the country's acting defence minister.

The blast in Kabul on Tuesday night was followed by a five-hour gunfight between Afghan security forces and Taliban insurgents.

At least eight civilians were killed in the explosion and 20 wounded.

A blast near the office of the main security agency just hours later wounded three more people.

The defence minister, Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, survived and his family were evacuated to safety, Interior Ministry spokesman Mirwais Stanekzai said. He warned the death toll could rise.

He said the attack took place in the upmarket Sherpur neighbourhood, which is located in an area with tight security known as the Green Zone. Several senior government officials also live in the area.

Hours after the attack, the Afghan defence ministry released a video of Mr Mohammadi saying his guards had been injured in a suicide attack.

"I assure my beloved countrymen that such attacks cannot have any impact on my willingness to defend my countrymen and my country," he said.

Officials said hundreds of people in the area had been evacuated to safety as security personnel carried out house-to-house searches.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was revenge for recent assaults by Afghan national forces that he claimed had caused civilian casualties.

The Taliban are currently on the offensive, putting heavy pressure on provincial capitals in the south and west of Afghanistan.

The group has escalated its campaign to unseat the US-backed government since April, as US-led foreign forces withdrew after 20 years of war.

Afghanistan's president has blamed the rapid withdrawal of western forces for the increase in Taliban offensives.

There has been heavy fighting around the city of Herat, as well as Lashkar Gah and Kandahar.

An emergency has been declared in Lashkar Gah and special forces troops have been deployed along with US air support.

The United Nations said at least 40 civilians had been killed in the small city, capital of Helmand province, on Monday.

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