A Taliban attack on a government security compound in central Afghanistan on Sunday killed at least 14 people and wounded more than 180, including scores of children, hours before a meeting in Qatar aimed at preparing the ground for peace talks.
Islamist Taliban fighters detonated a car bomb in Ghazni city near an office of Afghanistan’s main intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), during Sunday morning’s rush hour, officials said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying in a statement dozen of NDS officers were killed or wounded.
The attack took place as Taliban officials and a selected group of Afghan activists and civil society figures prepared to meet in Doha, casting a pall over talks intended to open the way for full peace negotiations in the future.
“It is unfathomable to endanger children in this way and I strongly condemn this attack,” U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, said in a tweet.
Health officials in Ghazni said 13 adults, including eight NDS members, and a child were killed. At least 60 children who were attending classes in a private school situated near the blast site were among the 180 people wounded.
Doors and windows of the school were destroyed in the powerful explosion, the children suffered multiple injuries caused by flying shards of glass and broken pieces of wood.
“The casualty figures may rise as this is not the last report of those injured in the powerful blast,” said Zaher Shah Nekmal, a health director in Ghazni province.
The blast in a crowded area of Ghazni city was the latest in a wave of near-daily attacks by the Taliban, who now hold sway over about half of Afghanistan and continue to intensify attacks on Afghan forces despite increased U.S. efforts towards a peace agreement to end the 18-year war.