Taliban attack near Afghan parliament kills more than 30

KABUL (Reuters) - A Taliban suicide attack in the Afghan capital Kabul on Tuesday killed more than 30 people and wounded some 70 others, as twin blasts hit a crowded area of the city during the afternoon rush hour.

Saleem Rasouli, a senior public health official, said 33 people had been killed and more than 70 wounded in the attack on the Darul Aman road, near an annex to the new Indian-financed parliament building. He said most of the victims were parliamentary staff members.

On the same day, at least another 14 people were killed and dozens injured in separate incidents in the volatile southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar.

The Islamist militant Afghan Taliban movement, which immediately claimed responsibility for the Kabul attack, said its target had been a minibus carrying staff from the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghanistan's main intelligence agency.

It put the casualties at more than 70 and said they were all members of the security forces.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said a suicide bomber attacked the minibus in the Darul Aman area, and was followed almost immediately by a car bomber, who killed security forces attending the scene.

"‎We planned this attack for quite some time and the plan was target some senior officers of the intelligence agency. We sent one suicide bomber to target a mini bus that was carrying these officers," he said. "We did exactly what we planned."

One witness, Sajadullah Khan, said he saw numerous wounded people lying on the ground after the explosion which he said "totally burned out" the minibus.

President Ashraf Ghani condemned the "criminal" attacks and vowed the perpetrators would not be safe anywhere in the country.

"The Taliban shamelessly claim credit for the attack on civilians and they're proud of it," he said in a statement.


The attack underlined the security threat posed by Islamist militants fighting to topple the Afghan government and drive out foreign troops stationed there for the last 15 years.

Hours after the Kabul incident, at least seven people were killed and 18 wounded in an explosion in the southern city of Kandahar. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Among the wounded were the provincial governor and the United Arab Emirates ambassador, officials said.

Afghan armed forces control no more than two thirds of national territory, and have struggled to contain the Taliban insurgency since the bulk of NATO soldiers withdrew at the end of 2014.

Several thousand, mainly Americans, remain in training and counter-terrorism roles.

The United States has announced plans to send 300 Marines to the volatile southern province of Helmand, large parts of which are under Taliban control, as part of a regular rotation of troops helping train and advise Afghan forces.

Earlier on Tuesday, a suicide bomber killed seven people and wounded nine when he detonated his explosives in a house in Helmand used by an NDS unit.

Thousands of civilians have been killed in Afghanistan in the 15 years since the Taliban government was brought down in the U.S.-led campaign of 2001.

In July, the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reported that 1,601 civilians had been killed in the first half of the year, a record since it began collating figures in 2009.

As well as the Taliban and associated groups including the Haqqani network, militants pledging loyalty to Islamic State have carried out major attacks in Kabul, most recently in November when more than 30 people were killed by a suicide bomber in a Shi'ite mosque.

© REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail Men carry an injured woman to an ambulance after a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan January 10, 2017.

Dozens killed in Kabul suicide bombings, Kandahar blast

Deadly attacks ripped across Afghanistan on Tuesday, with two suicide bombings near the Afghan Parliament in Kabul, an explosion at a Kandahar province government compound and a suicide bombing in Helmand province -- strikes leaving dozens of people dead and wounded, US and Afghan officials said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the Kabul attacks, which killed at least 31 people and injured 45 others in the capital, Afghan officials said.

The Kandahar explosion killed at least five people and injured 14 others, a provincial government official said, including a relative of former Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Others wounded included the United Arab Emirates ambassador to Afghanistan and the Kandahar province governor. The UAE said it regards the incident as a terror attack.
The White House issued a statement from the National Security Council with higher casualty figures in Kabul and Kandahar. It said at least 38 Afghans died and more than 70 were wounded in Kabul, and at least seven people were killed and 18 wounded in Kandahar.

In Helmand province, a suicide bomber killed at least seven Afghans, including both civilian and military personnel, the National Security Council said.

Kabul suicide strikes
The Kabul blasts targeted a van carrying administrative staffers of the Afghan parliament near the parliament compound and the private American University of Afghanistan.

Besides the 31 dead, 45 others were injured, said Saleem Rasooli, head of Kabul hospitals. Video distributed by Reuters showed numerous armed security personnel standing near the scene.

The violence began when a suicide attacker on foot detonated a bomb near the van, Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Seddiqi said.

The second blast came from a vehicle that exploded when police arrived to help victims, said Ahmad Wali, a Kabul district police chief.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the Taliban were targeting members of the Afghanistan's intelligence agency.

The blasts happened in the late afternoon on Darulaman Road, according to the university.

The university was at least indirectly affected by attacks and kidnappings by Taliban-linked insurgents last year.

In August, two teachers -- an American and an Australian -- were abducted near the school. Days later, a rescue attempt by US Special Operations forces from SEAL Team 6 failed when the teachers were not found at the targeted location.

Three weeks after the kidnappings, gunmen wearing suicide vests stormed the campus and killed 12 people, including students, security guards and police.

The American University of Afghanistan opened in 2006. It's the only private, nonprofit, coed university in that country and has about 1,700 full- and part-time students. The school is regarded as a symbol of cooperation between Afghanistan and the United States.

Kandahar blast
The explosion in the southern province of Kandahar ripped through a guesthouse of the governor's compound Tuesday evening, according to Samim Khpalwak, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

Along with at least five deaths, 14 others were injured, Khpalwak said.

Abdullah Khodadad, director of press and public relations for the Afghan Embassy in Washington, confirmed the death of diplomat Yama Quraishi.

Quraishi was head of Afghanistan's passport section in Washington. He is the nephew of Karzai's wife."

"He was doing his master's in George Mason University in the field of conflict resolution," Khodadad said.

Kandahar Gov. Humayun Azizi and the UAE envoy, Juma Mohammed Abdullah Al Kaabi, were lightly wounded, Khpalwak said.
Some Emirati diplomats who accompanied the ambassador were injured as well, the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said.

The UAE is closely monitoring what it called a terrorist attack.

There have been no initial claims of responsibility.

The Kandahar police chief and intelligence chief who were also at the gathering escaped the attack unhurt, Khpalwak said.

The ambassador was in Kandahar on a humanitarian mission.

Twin blasts claimed by Taliban kill more than 30 people in Kabul

KABUL — Apparent Taliban bombers struck some of Afghanistan’s most heavily guarded sites Tuesday, setting off twin blasts near security agencies in the country’s capital and targeting diplomatic talks in southern Afghanistan. More than 30 people were killed and scores wounded, including an Arab ambassador and a powerful provincial governor.

The attacks marked one of the bloodiest days in Afghanistan in months. They also again showed the insurgents’ ability to penetrate Afghan security and dealt another blow to the government’s claims that its U.S.-aided forces are gaining the upper hand against the Taliban.

In Kabul, a suicide attacker approached an intelligence-agency building before detonating explosives, said Kabul police spokesman Basir Mujahid. A car bomb then exploded as security forces gathered at the site of the first blast, Mujahid said.

Hours later, an explosion took place outside the governor’s compound in the southern city of Kandahar as the governor met with security officials and the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to Afghanistan, Kandahar police officials said.

In Abu Dhabi, a statement by the UAE Foreign Ministry said the blast injured Ambassador Juma Mohammed Abdullah al-Kaabi and other UAE diplomats but gave no immediate details on their condition.

A security official in Kandahar said the province’s governor, Humayun Azizi, also was injured.

The reason for the high-level meeting was not disclosed, although the UAE has been closely involved in Afghan affairs for decades. Earlier Tuesday, Azizi said the talks involved a $2 million “training project.”

The Taliban asserted responsibility for the back-to-back bombings in Kabul, saying the attackers targeted a minibus carrying employees of the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency. Police said most of those killed had been traveling in minibuses — a common form of transportation in Afghanistan — at the height of the city’s late-­afternoon rush hour.

There was no immediate assertion of responsibility for the Kandahar attack, but the area is a stronghold of the Taliban.

Saleem Rasouli, a senior public health official, said at least 33 people were killed and more than 70 wounded, the Reuters news agency reported. Other reports cited higher death tolls. The discrepancy in fatality numbers could not immediately be reconciled.

The attack took place on a major road near the Afghan parliament building and the American University of Afghanistan, both of which previously have been targeted by Taliban insurgents.

Police cordoned off the site after the blasts and stepped up vehicle searches at checkpoints around the city. A thick column of smoke could be seen rising from the blast site after the attack.

A security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief journalists, said the target of the attack appeared to be the security directorate building. A local intelligence chief was killed, and a female lawmaker and two journalists were among the wounded, the official said.

The explosions came just hours after a suicide attack killed seven people in the southern city of Lashkar Gah, in restive Helmand province. That attack also targeted an intelligence official, the Associated Press reported, quoting the Helmand police chief.

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