Updated at 10 a.m. ET
Multiple bomb blasts, including two apparent suicide attacks on police stations, and earthquake tremors rocked Afghanistan’s capital city, Kabul, on Wednesday.
Islamic State militants claimed responsibility for at least one of the bombings. The blasts underscore how the government and its Western backers are struggling to secure the capital against militants who see the city and its residents as their chief targets.
At least two police officers were killed, Reuters reports. An Italian medical aid group called Emergency tweeted that it had received six people, one of whom was already dead.
The first explosion occurred around noon local time near a police station in western Kabul’s Dasht-e-Barchi district, an area that is home to many people belonging to the mainly Shiite Hazara community, said police spokesman Hashmat Stanekzai.
Another blast targeted a police station in Shar-e-Naw in central Kabul, according to Reuters. The area is near embassies, government offices and banks.
Najib Danish, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said sporadic gunfire was exchanged at the site as part of a “cleanup operation.”
Local reporters and residents said that blast also hit near the Sharif Travel Agency, used by Afghans to apply for visas to India.
Aziz Ahmadzai, an Afghan writer on security affairs, said a friend had gone to the travel agency to secure a visa on Wednesday. “I am trying to call him, but I cannot,” Ahmadzai said.
He described Wednesday as horrible even by the standards of the war-ravaged capital.
“You don’t know if you will return to your home alive or not,” he said. “In Kabul, life is by chance. People are worried they will be attacked — they are not safe — in the shopping centers, in the mosques, in the parks.”
The blasts came in rapid succession at midday, suggesting a coordinated militant attack.
One journalist shared a gruesome image on a WhatsApp reporters group showing what appeared to be a suicide bomber who had detonated his explosives but only killed himself.
The attacks occurred ahead of parliamentary elections expected to be held in July. Afghan officials have had difficulty persuading residents to register to vote, partly because of fears that militants may target registration centers. Wednesday’s blasts will likely reinforce those fears.
Adding to residents’ misery, an earthquake shook buildings in Kabul, but there were no immediate reports of injuries.
In recent months, Afghanistan has seen an upsurge in suicide bombings claimed by ISIS and the Taliban.
The most recent blasts come just nine days after a series of attacks in Afghanistan killed more than 30 people, including 10 journalists.
Also in April, a suicide bomber hit a voting center in the capital, killing at least 57 people. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for that attack.
In an attack in March, ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack on a police checkpoint in Kabul that killed nine people and wounded 18.
The Associated Press on Wednesday quotes officials as saying the Taliban advanced on a district compound in Faryab province, with one reporting that its fighters had captured the region, while another said fighting was ongoing.
“The Taliban have captured several districts in different parts of the country from Afghan security forces since 2014, when the U.S. and NATO formally concluded their combat mission and shifted to a supporting role,” the AP says.