Afghanistan Bombings Kill 23 People, Wound Dozens in Single Day

  • Taliban militants claim responsibility for Kabul suicide blast
  • Talks between government, Taliban are expected in coming week

At least 23 Afghan civilians and soldiers were killed and dozens of others were hurt in two suicide bomb attacks on Saturday, less than a week before expected peace talks between the country’s officials and the Taliban militant movement.

A suicide bomber blew up his explosives-laden vest Saturday afternoon near the headquarters of Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry in Kabul, killing 12 people and injuring eight others, according to the capital city’s police spokesman, Basir Mujahed. In a tweet by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed that couldn’t be verified, the group said 23 military officers died and 29 others were wounded in the incident. A separate attack early Saturday in Asadabad, the capital of Kunar province, killed 11 civilians and hurt 40 other people, the Afghan Interior Ministry said in an e-mailed statement.

The two attacks come amid preparations for possible negotiations in Pakistan between Afghanistan’s government and the Taliban-led armed opposition aimed at achieving a political resolution to the decade-long war. Representatives of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the U.S. have officially invited the Taliban to attend the face-to-face talks, expected to be held next week in Islamabad.

Taliban leaders have yet to say whether they’ll attend. They had earlier set some conditions such as the full withdrawal of foreign troops from war-torn Afghanistan and the group’s removal from a United Nations blacklist. Officials in President Ashraf Ghani’s administration have repeatedly rejected the demands.

Civilian casualties from fighting in Afghanistan rose 4 percent in 2015 to 3,545 dead and 7,457 people injured, the UN said two weeks ago, the highest since figures started being compiled in 2009. Civilian deaths totaled 21,323 in the 2009-2015 period, while 37,413 people were hurt, according to the report from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. The Taliban and other anti-government elements caused 62 percent of the casualties, with the remainder attributed to government or coalition forces and unexploded ordnance remnants of war, the report said.

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