Kabul   -   The Taliban claimed responsibility for a large explosion in the Afghan capital Monday night, just hours after a US envoy briefed the Afghan government on an agreement “in principle” with the insurgent group that would see 5,000 US troops leave the country in five months.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahmi confirmed that the target of the blast was the Green Village compound, an area that is home to several international organizations and guesthouses. He said at least five people were killed and around 50 injured in the bombing.

The explosion sent a plume of smoke into the night sky over Kabul and caused a nearby gasoline station to burst into flames.

Another interior ministry official, Bahar Maher, told the local TOLO news channel that the blast was caused by a car bomb.

Firdaus Faramarz, a spokesman for Kabul’s police chief, confirmed that civilians were among the casualties but said it was too early to say how many.

At least 34 wounded people were taken to the nearby Wazir Akbar Khan hospital alone, said Dr Nezamudin Jalil, an official with the public health ministry.

A video from an international news agency showed bloodied people streaming into a local hospital.

At least 34 wounded people were taken to the nearby Wazir Akbar Khan hospital, Nezamudin Jalil, an public health ministry official said.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said a coordinated attack with a suicide bomber and gunmen was under way. Ahmad Qadir, a gatekeeper at a petrol station near the Green Village was on duty when he saw a flame and then heard the blast. “After the explosion, we can now hear gunfire,” he told Al Jazeera.

“It was a huge bang! Seems like a very big explosion,” Naseer Ahmad, another Kabul resident, said.

The Green Village, home to many foreigners and heavily guarded by Afghan forces and private security guards, has been a frequent target.

The compound was hit by a suicide car bomber in January who killed at least four people and wounded scores. That blast occurred when the US envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, was visiting the capital to brief the Afghan government on his negotiations with the Taliban on ending America’s longest war.

Monday’s latest blast occurred during the final minutes of a nationally televised interview with Khalilzad on what a US-Taliban deal might mean for Afghanistan’s future.

On Sunday, a second attack by the Taliban in as many days left several civilians and security forces dead.

Four civilians and two members of the security forces were killed in the attack on Puli Khumri, the capital of Baghlan province, with 20 civilians and two security forces wounded. At least 21 Taliban fighters were also dead, the interior ministry said.

A day earlier, hundreds of its fighters overran parts of Kunduz, a strategic city and the capital of the eponymous province that the group has twice come close to taking in recent years.

Meanwhile on Monday, attacks were also ongoing in the provinces of Kunduz, Takhar, Badakhshan, Balkh, Farah and Herat, according to Afghan local media. The Kabul-Baghlan and Baghlan-Kunduz highways were also blocked.

Peace deal

On Monday, Khalilzad showed a draft deal to the Afghan president after declaring that they are “at the threshold of an agreement” following the end of the ninth round of US-Taliban talks in Qatar. The agreement still needs President Donald Trump’s approval.

Reflecting the sensitivity of the negotiations and the Afghan government’s sidelined role in the talks so far, it was not clear whether President Ashraf Ghani was given the draft to keep.

“We have reached an agreement with the Taliban in principle but of course until the US president agrees with it, it isn’t final,” Khalilzad told TOLO news.

He said that under the deal, the first 5,000 US troops would withdraw within 135 days from five bases in Afghanistan. Between 14,000 and 13,000 troops are currently in the country.

Trump last week told Fox News the US plans to reduce its troop presence to 8,600 and then “make a determination from there.” He has been eager to withdraw troops before next year’s election and the draft deal easily meets that deadline.

The reduction would bring troop levels down to roughly where they were when Trump took office in January 2017. A further troop withdrawal is expected to depend on the Taliban meeting conditions of the deal, including a reduction in violence.

Shaken Kabul residents question whether any agreement with the Taliban can be trusted, especially as foreign troops withdraw.

The Taliban are at their strongest since the US-led invasion to topple their government after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, and now control or hold sway over roughly half the country. The Taliban want all of the estimated 20,000 US and NATO forces to leave Afghanistan and already portray their departure as the insurgents’ victory.

For its part, the US seeks Taliban assurances that Afghanistan will not be a safe haven for extremist groups to plan and launch global terror attacks.

The Taliban have stepped up attacks in recent months to strengthen their negotiating position, carrying out deadly assaults over the weekend on two provincial capitals.

The United Nations and others say Afghan civilians have suffered, often caught in the crossfire as government forces, backed by the US, have pursued the militants with airstrikes and raids. Afghanistan was the world’s deadliest conflict in 2018.

Afghan presidential spokesman Sediq Seddiqi told reporters the government would study the draft US-Taliban deal to make sure it addresses the goals of a lasting ceasefire and direct talks with the Taliban in the near future. “It will take couple of days, probably, that we will get back to them and give them our observations,” he said.

The Afghan government has been shut out of the US-Taliban negotiations, as the militant group dismisses it as a US puppet, but intra-Afghan talks that include the government are meant to follow a US-Taliban deal. The Kabul government says its negotiating team is ready but refuses to say who is on it.