Huge explosion rocks Kabul, casualties feared

Dozens killed in Afghanistan fighting as sectarian threat grows

Dozens killed in Afghanistan fighting as sectarian threat grows

On the other side of the country, in the northern province of Baghlan, at least 14 members of the Afghan security forces and civilians were killed and eight others were injured in Taliban attacks, provincial governor Abdulhai Nemati said.

"The suicide attacker on foot wanted to target protesters, but he was stopped at a security checkpoint some 200 metres (660 feet) from the site", interior ministry deputy spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said.

On Monday, hundreds of protesters converged in Kabul city center, near the Presidential Palace, in protest against government's failure to secure these areas.

A police officer at the scene said he saw 10 to 15 casualties on the ground, as well as body parts.

The centre of Kabul was blanketed with heavier-than-usual security for the protest, which began on Sunday night and continued into Monday.

Earlier, at least 25 Afghan security personnel were killed in a Taliban attack on a military base in the province on November 6.

Police spokesperson Ahmad Khan Sirat said six members of the security forces were wounded in addition to the 25 civilians and commandos who were killed.

Provincial police spokesman Mohibullah Mohib confirmed the attack, but had no information on the number of casualties.

The Kabul explosion came as Afghan security forces step up ground and air offensives in Jaghori and Malistan districts, where Hazara pro-government fighters and Afghan troops are battling the militants.

The fighting in Jaghori district, an area inhabited mainly by Shia ethnic Hazaras, has been going on since Wednesday when Taliban fighters attacked the district and the government sent special forces units to back up local militia forces.

Angered by what many see as official indifference, Hazaras have formed militia groups of their own, fuelling concern among some officials and Western diplomats at the potential for an upsurge in ethnic, sectarian violence.

"We have no news from our people living there", Asif Ashna, one of the protesters, said in a Facebook live broadcast.

The fighting took place as U.S. special envoy Zakmay Khalilzad prepared for a fresh round of meetings aimed at bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table to try to find a political settlement to the decades-long war in Afghanistan.

Khalilzad met with President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday.

A Taliban delegation met with Khalilzad in Doha in October to discuss ending the Afghan conflict.

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