Suicide Blasts Target Afghan Defense Ministry and Tribal Elder Who Fought the Taliban

At least 20 people were reported killed and many more injured in separate suicide bombings in Kabul and the province of Kunar in eastern Afghanistan.
February 27, 2016, 4:40pm
Afghan security officials secure the site of a suicide bomb blast near the Ministry of Defense in Kabul (Photo by Jawad Jalali/EPA)

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A pair of Taliban suicide bombings in separate parts of Afghanistan killed at least 20 people and injured many civilians on Saturday, with one attack targeting the Afghan Ministry of Defense in Kabul.

The Kabul blast occurred as workers were leaving their offices at the Ministry of Defense. A large plume of smoke spiraled into the sky, and witnesses said a number of bodies could be seen piled on the ground. A ministry statement said 12 people were killed and eight wounded, but Kabul police reported nine casualties and 13 wounded.

"I wanted to cross the bridge when I heard an explosion," a witness who gave his name as Zulgai told Reuters. "I went to the area … there were damaged cars and shattered windows everywhere."

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Hours earlier, another Taliban suicide bomber on motorbike targeted a tribal elder in eastern Kunar province near a provincial council compound. Eleven people were reported killed and more than 30 injured.

Provincial Governor Wahidullah Kalimzai said the bomber blew himself up after riding a motorcycle up to the entrance of a compound in Asadabad, the provincial capital of Kunar, near the border with Pakistan.

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"Most of victims were civilians and children who were either passing by or playing in the park," he said.

A tribal elder and militia commander named Haji Khan Jan was among the dead. He had been closely involved in a number of operations against the Taliban in his district last year.

Officials from Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States, and China have been pressing for a resumption of the peace process between the Western-backed government in Kabul and the Taliban. But in a statement issued after the attack in Kunar, President Ashraf Ghani said his government would not conduct peace talks with groups that killed innocent people, and said security forces would step up the fight against terrorism.

It also remains unclear whether the Taliban, which has struggled to contain deep internal divisions, will take part in direct peace talks. There had been hope that the talks, which were interrupted last year, would be held in Islamabad as early as next week.

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