Suicide attack kills at least 15 in east Afghanistan

A man carries an injured child at a hospital after a truck bomb blast, in Jalalabad, Afghanistan October 3, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 03 October 2020

Suicide attack kills at least 15 in east Afghanistan

  • Officials blame Taliban for bombing

KABUL: At least 15 people including civilians were killed in a suicide attack in Afghanistan on Saturday, the first major strike since direct talks between the Taliban and government negotiators started three weeks ago, officials said.

A raid outside a government building in eastern Nangarhar province took place after a vehicle laden with explosives was detonated at the entrance of the compound.

“Several armed attackers tried to enter the facility after the attack but were killed by security forces,” Attaullah Khogyani, spokesman for Nangarhar’s governor, told Arab News by phone. “Some school students are also among the dead. A mosque nearby was also damaged.” 

A purported video of the attack circulated on social media soon after the assault. It showed several rooms and parts of the main building damaged by the impact of the blast, which also destroyed several vehicles in the area to leave a deep crater.

Obaidullah Shinwari, a member of the provincial council, said the death toll could rise. Tariq Aryan, Interior Ministry spokesman in Kabul, said that nearly 40 people had been injured in the attack.

Despite no immediate claim of responsibility, Aryan said “it was the Taliban’s act” and called it a “major crime against the people of Afghanistan.”

Shah Hussien Murtazawi, an adviser to President Ashraf Ghani, also blamed the Taliban for the attack. He accused the group of seeking “to gain concessions during the talks which began in Qatar on Sept. 12.”

He tweeted: “Since the inception of the talks the Taliban have carried out 650 attacks which, according to the Interior Ministry, have claimed the lives of dozens of civilians.”

The intra-Afghan talks are aimed at finding a negotiated settlement to end more than four decades of war in the country. The US is planning a complete withdrawal of troops by next spring, based on a deal signed with the Taliban in Qatar earlier this year.

The Taliban has yet to comment on Saturday’s attack, which comes amid an uptick in violence across the country despite the Doha discussions.

While the group has been behind several such attacks in the past, affiliates of Daesh, which also has some influence in Nangarhar, have carried out similar raids too.

Saturday’s incident was the first major one since the start of the Qatar talks.

“It would have dire and serious consequences on the process of the Qatar talks and the Taliban if it is proven the Taliban were behind this, or they come out and claim responsibility for it,” analyst Shafiq Hapal told Arab News. “There are internal and external spoilers who may use it as a pretext to derail the Qatar talks.”

The Taliban and government delegates have yet to devise a mechanism for the talks before setting a plan for it.

The absence of a breakthrough since the start of the talks forced US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, who struck a deal with the Taliban, to fly to Qatar on Thursday for a meeting with negotiators from both sides.

During a trip to southeastern Paktika province on Saturday, Ghani said that the talks would produce results but that it “required patience.”


CIA officer killed in Somalia: US media

Updated 13 min 24 sec ago

CIA officer killed in Somalia: US media

  • The US has some 700 troops training Somali forces and carrying out raids against Al-Shabab militants
  • Al-Shabab, an Al-Qaeda affiliate, is estimated to have between 5,000 and 9,000 fighters

WASHINGTON: A CIA officer was killed in combat in Somalia in recent days, US media said Thursday without releasing details of how the agent died.
The veteran officer was a member of the CIA’s Special Activities Center, a paramilitary branch that carries out some of the US intelligence agency’s most dangerous tasks, The New York Times said.
The officer died of injuries sustained during an operation last week, according to CNN.
The CIA has not commented publicly on the death.
Washington has some 700 troops deployed in Somalia carrying out training of Somali forces and conducting counter-terrorism raids against the Al-Shabab militant group, which Washington designated a terrorist movement in 2008.
Earlier this month, Washington put on its terror blacklist the leader of an elite unit of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated group blamed for a January attack in Kenya that killed three Americans.
Al-Shabab is estimated to have between 5,000 and 9,000 fighters who have vowed to overthrow the Somali government, which is supported by some 20,000 troops from the African Union.
The slain US operative was a veteran of special forces operations, having previously been a member of the elite SEAL Team 6, the Times reported.
The outgoing administration of President Donald Trump is considering withdrawing all US forces from Somalia by the time he leaves office in January, the paper added.
At the start of his term, Trump gave the Pentagon a freer hand to expand their operations, with both air strikes and ground raids, in the war-ravaged African country.
But an official report released in February said that “despite continued US air strikes in Somalia and US assistance to African partner forces, Al-Shabab appears to be a growing threat that aspires to strike the US homeland.”