Truck bomb kills 12, injures scores south of Kabul

By J.P. LAWRENCE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 7, 2019

KABUL, Afghanistan – At least 12 people were killed and scores wounded — including dozens of schoolchildren — in a truck bomb attack Sunday that targeted an Afghan intelligence headquarters.

The attack in Ghazni also injured at least 179 people, Wahidullah Mayar, spokesman for the Ministry of Public Health, said in a tweet.

Thirteen of the wounded are in critical condition, Baz Mohammad Himmat, the head of Ghazni city's government hospital, told Stars and Stripes.

The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack, in which a truck filled with explosives detonated at the entrance of an office of the country's main intelligence unit, National Directorate of Security, at 8 a.m. Sunday.

Many of the wounded were students of a nearby school, the provincial health department chief, Zahir Shah Nekmal told The Associated Press.

He said most of the injured suffered cuts and abrasions from broken glass.

The attack on the compound comes less than a week after another Taliban-claimed truck bombing in Kabul killed 10 and wounded more than 100, including many children.

The intelligence compound was in the center of Ghazni, 90 miles south of Kabul. The city lies astride the main highway between the capital and the south of the country.

Last fall, Taliban fighters seized large areas of Ghazni province’s Malistan and Jaghori districts in fighting that killed hundreds on both sides and displaced thousands of civilians.

In November, four U.S. troops were killed and three Americans were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded in Ghazni, marking the deadliest day for U.S. forces in the country in 2018.

As part of a push to relieve Taliban pressure on the city in June, the Afghan military recaptured Khwaja Umari, a district about 10 miles from Ghazni, which had been under insurgent control for nine months.

"The enemy has lost their strength to fight security forces on the battlefield, that is why they are attacking crowded places to harm civilians," Ahmad Khan Seerat, spokesman for Ghazni provincial police headquarters, said Sunday.

President Ashraf Ghani denounced the attack, which comes as an all-Afghan two-day conference that includes the Taliban begins in Doha.

“The Taliban should know that they cannot gain leverage by the killing of civilians,” Ghani said in a statement. “As they are having talks in Qatar, in Afghanistan they are coloring their hands by the blood of innocents, especially women and children, on a daily basis.”

A Taliban spokesman in Doha on Sunday responded to reports asking about the attacks by stating the group investigates all claims of civilian casualties. Speaking in general terms, Suhail Shaheen in a Tolo News report said all those who commit violations during attacks will be "prosecuted."

U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in a Tweet Sunday condemned the attacks.

"It is unfathomable to endanger children in this way," he tweeted.

In a Tweet Saturday night he said the latest round of talks with the Taliban were productive.

In a visit to the Afghan capital late last month, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sept. 1 was the target date for a peace deal to end America’s longest running military engagement.

Talks between the U.S. and Taliban will resume Tuesday.

Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.

Twitter: @jplawrence3

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