GHAZNI, AFGHANISTAN (AP) – At least 34 people were killed on Sunday in two separate suicide bombings in Afghanistan targeting a military base and a provincial chief, officials said.
There was no direct responsibility for the attacks that took place when Afghan government officials and the Taliban first held personal talks in Qatar to end the country’s decades-long war.
In East Ghazni province, 31 soldiers were killed and 24 others wounded when the attacker drove a military hum full of explosives to an army commando base before detonating the car bomb, says an Afghan National Security Council official who spoke anonymously because he should not speak directly to the media.
The head of Ghazni’s provincial health department, Zahir Shah Nikmal, also confirmed the number of victims and victims of the attack.
The Afghan Ministry of Defense issued a statement claiming that 10 soldiers had died and nine were injured. The ministry offered the incident differently than the National Security Council official, saying the vehicle exploded near the army base after security forces opened fire on the car. It was not immediately clear why there was a discrepancy.
Tariq Arian, a Home Office spokesman, said there was a suicide bombing, although he did not provide further details.
Soldiers stationed at the base were responsible for conducting night raids, supporting the besieged army and police forces, and participating in large-scale operations against the Taliban and the Islamic State group in eastern and southern Afghanistan.
The base is located in a desert region, about five miles (five kilometers from the town of Gházni). Parts of the base and the nearby police building were partially destroyed by the powerful explosion. Windows also exploded in city buildings, close to the bombing.
In southern Afghanistan, another suicide car bomber targeted a convoy of the provincial councilor in Zabul province, killing at least three people and injuring another 21 people, including children, provincial spokesman Gul Islam Sial said.
Council chief Attajan Haqbayat survived the Sunday attack with minor injuries, although one of his bodyguards was among those killed, said Hikmatullah Kochai, a spokesman for the provincial police.
Violence has risen sharply this year, and the Taliban have been attacking Afghanistan’s battered security forces since the start of peace talks in September. There have also been deadly attacks by Islamic State militants in Afghanistan this month, including a horrific attack on Kabul University, in which 22 people lost their lives, most of them students.
The United States, meanwhile, plans to withdraw about 2,500 troops before mid-January, leaving about 2,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of America’s longest war. However, Afghan officials have expressed concern that the rapid deployment of U.S. troops could strengthen the Taliban’s negotiating position.
The United States has been pushing for a reduction in violence in recent weeks, while the Afghan government has demanded a ceasefire. The Taliban have rejected it, saying the ceasefire will be part of the talks, although the group has kept its promise not to attack U.S. and NATO troops.
Akhgar reported from Kabul, Afghanistan.