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The Taliban are carrying out bombings in Kabul at will

A suicide bomber killed at least 38 people in a car bomb attack in Kabul Monday, as the Taliban stepped up their recent attacks across Afghanistan.

In a statement claiming responsibility for the attack, the terror group said it had targeted employees of the government intelligence agency, though Kabul police said most of the victims worked for the ministry of mines and petroleum.

The rush-hour attack, which left dozens injured, highlights the increasing danger faced by residents of the war-torn country’s capital, as the Taliban demonstrates its ability to carry out mass casualty attacks at will.

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According to a midyear report released by the United Nations, 219 civilians were killed and 829 injured in Kabul in the first six months of 2017 – an increase of 26 percent from the previous year. The leading cause was by suicide and “complex” attacks – the latter defined as coordinated attacks carried out by multiple insurgents using at least two different weapons. The majority of those killed were victims of a huge truck bomb that ripped through the city’s diplomatic district in May. More than 150 people died from it.

Kabul had the highest number of civilian casualties in the country so far this year – accounting for a fifth of all those killed or injured – and was second only to the Taliban stronghold of Helmand province in terms of fatalities.

Overall, 1,662 civilians were killed in Afghanistan in the first six months of 2017, a record high, according to the U.N. Despite 16 years of international efforts to eradicate the Taliban, the group is stronger than ever, controlling or contesting an estimated 40 percent of the country’s territory.

In recent days, the Taliban has launched a series of attacks across the country as part of its annual summer offensive. On Thursday, the son of Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada died driving a car bomb into an Afghan government base in the town of Gereshk, in Helmand province.

In northeastern Badakhshan province, at least 32 police officers and government-aligned fighters were killed during a Taliban push to capture the remote Tagab region. The militants also captured Kohistan in Faryab province, and Taywara in Ghor province over the weekend.

The escalation in violence comes as the U.S. mulls its strategy for the next stage in its longest war – including potentially sending more troops to join the 8,000 U.S. forces already deployed in the NATO-led training and advisory mission in Afghanistan.