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KABUL -The Taliban claimed responsibility on Wednesday for a car bomb attack on the residence of Afghanistan's acting defence minister, while a blast near the office of the main security agency in Kabul just hours later wounded three people.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said the group targeted the residence on Tuesday night, adding that an important meeting was underway at the time.
The defence minister survived, but the attack represented a deterioration in the country's security situation and a sign that the capital was at risk of violence as the insurgents take control of swathes of territory.]
The blast targeted a heavily fortified area of the capital, which has in recent weeks largely been spared the violence hitting other parts of the country.
The Ministry of Interior said at least eight civilians were killed and 20 wounded in the incident.
On Wednesday morning, another explosion took place near a facility of Afghanistan's main security agency in the capital, wounding two civilians and a security official, police said. No group immediately took responsibility for the blast.
The Taliban have stepped up their campaign to defeat the U.S.-backed government since April as U.S.-led foreign forces complete their withdrawal after 20 years of war.
Fighting has been particularly heavy around the city of Herat, near the western border with Iran, and Lashkar Gah and Kandahar in the south.
The late Tuesday bomb-and-gun attack in Kabul was aimed at acting Defence Minister Bismillah Mohammadi and other politicians. Government forces battled the unidentified gunmen for more than four hours. Mohammadi survived.
An Afghan military spokesman said an emergency had been declared in Lashkar Gah and government forces were getting reinforcements and U.S. air support.
"Special forces have been sent to the area. They are in good morale," armed forces spokesman General Ajmal Omar Shinwari told Reuters.
The loss of Lashkar Gah would be a huge blow for the government, which has pledged to defend strategic centres after losing many rural districts to the Taliban in recent months.
Scores of families have fled from their homes in the small city, capital of Helmand province, as government forces launched a counterattack against the Taliban.
The United Nations reported on Tuesday that at least 40 civilians had been killed in Lashkar Gah in the previous 24 hours.
Taliban fighters had taken control of some radio and TV stations in the city and were moving into homes to stop people from helping government forces, residents said. REUTERS