At least 34 people were killed on Sunday in two separate suicide bombings in Afghanistan that targeted a military base and a provincial chief, officials said. There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attacks, which took place as Afghan government representatives and the Taliban hold face-to-face talks in Qatar for the first time to end the country’s decades-long war.
In Ghazni, 31 soldiers were killed and 24 others wounded when the attacker drove a military humvee full of explosives onto an army base before detonating the car bomb, according to an official in Afghanistan’s National Security Council, who spoke anonymously because he was not permitted to speak directly to the media.
Ghazni provincial health department chief Zahir Shah Nikmal also confirmed the casualty figures from the attack.
The blast targeted a compound of the public protection force, a wing of the Afghan security forces, local officials said. It damaged civilian residences around the compound, and there could be more casualties from there, they said.
Interior ministry spokesman Tariq Arian confirmed that there had been a car bomb blast but did not provide further information on the target or possible casualties. Afghanistan has seen a spate of car bombings over the last few months, despite peace talks being under way between negotiation teams of the insurgent Taliban and the government in the Qatari capital of Doha.
In southern Afghanistan, another suicide car bomber targeted the convoy of a provincial council chief in Zabul, killing at least three people and wounding 21 others, said provincial spokesman Gul Islam Sial. The provincial council chief, Attajan Haqbayat, survived the attack on Sunday with minor injuries, though one of his bodyguards was among those killed.
The US, meanwhile, plans to withdraw an estimated 2,500 troops before the middle of January, leaving about 2,000 soldiers in Afghanistan as part of America’s longest war. Afghan officials, however, have expressed concerns that a rapid reduction in American troops could strengthen the negotiating hand of the Taliban.