At least 7 killed in suicide blast near Afghan ministry

KABUL, July 15 (Reuters) - An apparent suicide attack close to a government ministry in the Afghan capital Kabul on Sunday killed at least seven people and wounded more than 15 as staff were leaving the office in the evening rush hour, officials said.

The attack was the latest in a seemingly unending series of blasts against civilian targets in Kabul and other major cities including Jalalabad, which has seen three major attacks in the past two weeks alone.

"Apparently a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest at the gate of our ministry," said Fraidoon Azhand, a spokesman at the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development.

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SHADAL BAZAAR, AFGHANISTAN - JULY 15: Men pose for a portrait outside a shop on July 15, 2017 in Shadal Bazaar, Afghanistan. People are slowly returning to the recently liberated area, which had previously been a front line of fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria - Khorasan (ISIS-K) in Achin District of Nangarhar Province. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
SURKH ROD, AFGHANISTAN - JULY 14: Children of families displaced by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria -Khorasan (ISIS-K) play at their current home on July 14, 2017, in Surkh Rod District, Afghanistan. The families moved ten months ago from the Pachir wa Agam District when IS took control of their town. Military operations by Afghan and United States forces are currently underway to remove IS fighters from Nangarhar Province in Eastern Afghanistan. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
SHADAL BAZAAR, AFGHANISTAN - JULY 15: A man has his haircut in a barber shop on July 15, 2017 in Shadal Bazaar, Afghanistan. People are slowly returning to the recently liberated area, which had previously been a front line of fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria - Khorasan (ISIS-K) in Achin District of Nangarhar Province. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
SHADAL BAZAAR, AFGHANISTAN - JULY 15: Children play with a wheel barrow on July 15, 2017 in Shadal Bazaar, Afghanistan. People are slowly returning to the recently liberated area, which had previously been a front line of fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria - Khorasan (ISIS-K) in Achin District of Nangarhar Province. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
SHADAL BAZAAR, AFGHANISTAN - JULY 15: A boy walks through buildings damaged from fighting on July 15, 2017 in Shadal Bazaar, Afghanistan. People are slowly returning to the recently liberated area, which had previously been a front line of fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria - Khorasan (ISIS-K) in Achin District of Nangarhar Province. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
SHADAL BAZAAR, AFGHANISTAN - JULY 15: A member of the Afghan Local Police (ALP) poses for a portrait at his outpost on July 15, 2017 in Shadal Bazaar, Afghanistan. People are slowly returning to the recently liberated area, which had previously been a front line of fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria - Khorasan (ISIS-K) in Achin District of Nangarhar Province. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
SURKH ROD, AFGHANISTAN - JULY 14: Children of families displaced by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria -Khorasan (ISIS-K) play at their current home on July 14, 2017, in Surkh Rod District, Afghanistan. The families moved ten months ago from the Pachir wa Agam District when IS took control of their town. Military operations by Afghan and United States forces are currently underway to remove IS fighters from Nangarhar Province in Eastern Afghanistan. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
SURKH ROD, AFGHANISTAN - JULY 14: Anwar Pachir, whose family was displaced by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria - Khorasan (ISIS-K) walks through a storm outside his current home on July 14, 2017, in Surkh Rod District, Afghanistan. Pachir brough his family ten months ago from the Pachir wa Agam District when IS took control of their town. Military operations by Afghan and United States forces are currently underway to remove IS fighters from Nangarhar Province in Eastern Afghanistan. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
SURKH ROD, AFGHANISTAN - JULY 14: Children who were displaced by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria - Khorasan (ISIS-K) stand outside their current home during a storm on July 14, 2017, in Surkh Rod District, Afghanistan. Families arrived from the Pachir wa Agam District when IS took control of their town. Military operations by Afghan and United States forces are currently underway to remove IS fighters from Nangarhar Province in Eastern Afghanistan. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
SHADAL BAZAAR, AFGHANISTAN - JULY 15: Men restock a pharmacy which had been closed for two years on July 15, 2017 in Shadal Bazaar, Afghanistan. People are slowly returning to the recently liberated area, which had previously been a front line of fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria - Khorasan (ISIS-K) in Achin District of Nangarhar Province. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
SHADAL BAZAAR, AFGHANISTAN - JULY 15: A boy rides his bike past a destroyed car on July 15, 2017 in Shadal Bazaar, Afghanistan. People are slowly returning to the recently liberated area, which had previously been a front line of fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria - Khorasan (ISIS-K) in Achin District of Nangarhar Province. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
SHADAL BAZAAR, AFGHANISTAN - JULY 15: A man sells tomatos on July 15, 2017 in Shadal Bazaar, Afghanistan. People are slowly returning to the recently liberated area, which had previously been a front line of fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria - Khorasan (ISIS-K) in Achin District of Nangarhar Province. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
SHADAL BAZAAR, AFGHANISTAN - JULY 15: Men walk past buildings damaged from fighting on July 15, 2017 in Shadal Bazaar, Afghanistan. People are slowly returning to the recently liberated area, which had previously been a front line of fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria - Khorasan (ISIS-K) in Achin District of Nangarhar Province. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
SHADAL BAZAAR, AFGHANISTAN - JULY 15: A man prays inside a building damaged from fighting on July 15, 2017 in Shadal Bazaar, Afghanistan. People are slowly returning to the recently liberated area, which had previously been a front line of fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria - Khorasan (ISIS-K) in Achin District of Nangarhar Province. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
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The target was our staff who were leaving to their homes," he said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility and it was not immediately clear why the ministry, which was attacked just over a month ago, had been targeted.

Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanekzai said at least seven people, including civilians and members of the security forces had been killed and more than 15 wounded in the attack, which also damaged a vehicle belonging to foreign advisers to the ministry.

Stanekzai said most of the casualties were ministry staff. He had no information on any casualties among the advisers.

Earlier on Sunday, the United Nations reported a record number of civilian deaths from the conflict in Afghanistan, with a 22 percent jump in casualties from suicide attacks during the first half of the year.

Following last month's brief ceasefire over the three-day Eid holiday, President Ashraf Ghani has repeated his offer of peace talks with the Taliban and there has been growing optimism that a breakthrough may be possible.

But the Taliban, who say the Western-backed government in Kabul is illegitimate, have so far rebuffed the appeal and insisted that international troops must leave Afghanistan for talks to begin. (Writing by James Mackenzie Editing by Gareth Jones)

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