By Praveen Swami
The would-be suicide bomber successfully evaded multiple security checks before opening fire near the Kabul offices of Abdul Rahim Wardark, the country’s defence minister.
At least seven people, including members of Mr Wardark’s staff, were injured.
General Zahir Azimi, the spokesman for Afghanistan’s defence ministry, said the attacker was unable to set off the explosives packed into his suicide vest before he was shot dead.
In a statement published on the Taliban’s website, a spokesman for the organisation said the attack had been planned to take place as “US generals, [the] French defence minister and the defence minster of [the] Afghan stooge regime were in the middle of a meeting”.
Afghan government sources, however, that while Gerald Longuet and Mr Wardak were scheduled to meet on Monday, the French defence minister was not in the building when the attack took place.
The Taliban claimed the attacker had been working in the defence ministry for six months, but there was no independent confirmation of the claim. Military uniforms are easily available in Afghanistan, despite an official ban, and have often been used to stage similar attacks.
Monday’s attack is the latest of incidents involving serving Afghan National Army or police personnel – underlining fears that the country’s rapidly-expanding security services have been heavily infiltrated by jihadists.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan on Monday, six police officers were killed by a roadside bomb in Ghazni province, central Afghanistan, the provincial police chief said. That attack was also claimed by the Taliban.
Ten Iranian engineers were kidnapped in the remote western Farah province, while three people died north of Kabul in a protest against the detention of an alleged insurgent by foreign and Afghan forces.
The renewed wave of violence has raised concerns over the fate of British-backed efforts to negotiate with the Taliban leadership ahead of the planned Nato withdrawal of troops starting in July.
Ibrahim Kalin, the chief adviser to Turkey’s prime minister, said last week that that the country was “negotiating right now on a plan to open a political office for the Taliban in Istanbul”.
Burhanuddin Rabbani, an Afghan politician who leads a national reconciliation council set up by Mr Karzai to negotiate with the Taliban, had told Turkey the office would help facilitate negotiations.
The move had, however, been criticised by Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan’s most important opposition leader, who said it would “legalise a terrorist organisation”.
In a recent talk at the Asia Society in New York, Mr Abdullah said he had “no difficulty with the logic of the proposition that in every war you need to leave the door open for talks”, but warned that talking to the Taliban at this juncture could “lead to sacrificing and compromising the gains of the past few years”.