Taliban car bomb kills nine at intelligence base in Ghazni
By J.P. LAWRENCE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 18, 2020
KABUL, Afghanistan — At least nine people died and 40 were wounded in a Taliban attack on a government base Monday, which the insurgents said they launched in response to President Ashraf Ghani’s order for troops to go back on the offensive against them.
Taliban fighters blew up a stolen Humvee at around 5 a.m. inside the main compound of a base in Ghazni used by the country’s intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, said Wahidullah Jumazada, a spokesman for the provincial governor.
The explosion shattered windows more than a mile away in the city of Ghazni, about 100 miles southwest of Kabul, Jumazada said.
Nine people were killed, said Tariq Arian, spokesman for the Afghan interior minister, updating an earlier figure of seven killed.
The Taliban said on Twitter that it carried out the attack in response to Ghani‘s “war declaration” — a reference to his order last week for the military to resume offensive operations against the militant group.
In a separate attack in Kabul, at least two people were wounded when a magnetic bomb blew up a vehicle.
None of the militant groups active in the capital immediately claimed responsibility for the mid-afternoon attack, which happened about two miles north of the U.S. Embassy. The attack followed an assassination attempt by men on a motorcycle against a defense official Saturday in Kabul, which killed one Afghan soldier.
In giving the order to attack the Taliban, Ghani cited a sharp rise in attacks against Afghan forces and an increase in violence around the country since the U.S. signed a deal with the insurgents in late February.
The deal was supposed to lead to a negotiated end to Afghanistan’s latest war and to the full withdrawal of American and international troops by next year. But in the nearly two months since it was signed, the Taliban have launched more than 3,700 attacks while government forces have conducted almost 1,600 defensive operations, the Afghan Ministry of Interior said last week.
Ghani’s order came on the same day as dozens died, including mothers and their newborns, in an attack on a maternity ward in Kabul. Dozens more died in an attack at the funeral in Nangarhar province for a pro-government warlord.
The Taliban denied having anything to do with the attack on the maternity ward. The U.S. has blamed it and the assault in Nangarhar on the Islamic State group.
Afghan forces have killed at least 249 Taliban fighters since the order to resume the offensive was given, while the militant group has killed nearly 300 people, National Security Council spokesman Javid Faisal said Sunday on Twitter.
NATO’s Resolute Support command said last week that international forces would not shift to an offensive posture but would continue to conduct “defensive strikes” against the Taliban if they attack Afghan forces.
Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.