Saturday, February 27, 2016

Suicide Bombings in Afghanistan Kill at Least 26
New York Times
FEB. 27, 2016

Afghan mourners carried the coffin of the victim of a suicide attack in Kunar Province on Saturday.

KABUL, Afghanistan — Two separate suicide bombings in Afghanistan on Saturday left at least 26 people dead and nearly 50 wounded, officials said, days ahead of expected talks between the government and the Taliban.

The first attack, in Asadabad near the governor’s compound in the eastern province of Kunar, killed at least 14 people and wounded 41 others, said Wahidullah Kalimzai, the province’s governor.

Hours later, a suicide bomber in Kabul set off his explosives at the entrance of the Defense Ministry’s headquarters as soldiers and officials were leaving their offices, killing at least 12 people and wounding eight, a statement from the ministry said.

The Taliban were responsible for the Kabul attack, said a spokesman for the insurgents, Zabihullah Mujahid. No one claimed responsibility yet for the blast in Kunar.

Violence has not abated across Afghanistan this winter, unlike in previous years, and it is expected to intensify in the spring, customarily the start of the insurgent fighting season.

The government of President Ashraf Ghani has been trying to engage the Taliban in negotiations, in the hope of reaching a political resolution to the long war. Officials from Afghanistan, the United States, China and Pakistan, where the insurgency’s leadership is based, recently invited the Taliban to face-to-face talks in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, in early March.

But the Taliban have yet to publicly declare whether they will attend, and Afghan officials have been playing down expectations that the talks would lead to a quick reduction in violence even if the insurgents participate.

The target of the attack in Asadabad, the provincial capital of Kunar Province, appeared to have been a tribal elder named Hajji Khan Jan, who had orchestrated a local uprising against the Taliban in his home district, Dangam. Mr. Jan was among the dead, Mr. Kalimzai, the governor, said.

The attack occurred on the main road in Asadabad, in a crowded area that includes a park frequented by children. The bomber, believed to have been riding a motorcycle, detonated his explosives in front of a soup vendor’s stall. Most of those who died were civilians, including three brothers from one family. The city’s hospital was overwhelmed by the number of wounded people and issued a public appeal for blood donations.

“I went to the bookstore to buy books for myself,” said Ahmad Zaher, 25, who was wounded in the blast. “When I looked out, I heard a bang and saw a flame of fire out on the street, then I woke up and saw I am in a hospital bed.”

The Kabul bomber also picked a crowded market area, near the entrance of the Defense Ministry. The bomber was on foot, said Abdul Basir Mujahid, a spokesman for the Kabul police. He said that employees of the ministry might be among the dead.

As has become a routine in Kabul, where such attacks are frequent, firefighters washed away the gory remains on the street soon after the area was cordoned off by the security forces.

Niamatullah Karyab reported from Asadabad, Afghanistan.

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