KABUL – At least 13 people, including two suspects, have been killed and another 45 were injured on Thursday in a series of bombings in Kabul that officials say targeted a bus on which Afghan government officials were traveling.
The attack came while a top military commander of the United States and a peace envoy for Afghanistan were visiting the city.
The first bombing took place around 8:10 am when a suicide attacker riding a motorcycle targeted a bus carrying employees from the mines and petroleum ministry who were on their way to work, Kabul police spokesperson Firdaws Faramarz told EFE.
A second bomb was detonated near the bus attack site, the interior ministry said in a statement, amid fears the death toll could increase further.
The third attack saw a car bomb go off in a different Kabul neighborhood, a mostly-residential area that also houses several factories.
The interior ministry in a statement blamed Taliban militants for the Kabul bombings in which “11 civilians, including five women and a child, were killed and 45 others were injured.”
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s office said attacks across Afghanistan by Taliban militants were deliberately aimed at civilians.
Condemning the “barbaric attacks,” Ghani said the Taliban was on one side holding peace talks and on the other continuing “crimes against humanity.”
The spike in attacks, the president said, won’t give the Taliban greater leverage in peace talks with the US.
But the insurgent group distanced itself from the first two attacks in Kabul and said the third bombing was carried out by one of its members to target a convoy of foreign troops.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in a statement said “nine high-ranking foreign officers” were killed, a common line the group uses to describe casualties inflicted on security forces.
The NATO mission in Afghanistan has denied that its troops were targeted in Kabul, according to an international mission spokesperson, who requested anonymity.
The triple attack in Kabul took place in the middle of the visit to Kabul by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Marine General Joseph Dunford, who was meeting top American and NATO commanders in the city.
US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who is leading the American delegation for talks with Taliban militants to end the 18-year war, is also in the city to meet with Afghan officials before he begins the latest round of peace dialog with militant leaders in Qatar.
Khalilzad met with Afghan President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah on Wednesday to help form a team to negotiate with Taliban leaders.
After his Kabul visit, the envoy is set to leave for Qatar’s capital, Doha, where the eighth round of peace talks with Taliban leaders to negotiate the withdrawal of international troops – the militant group’s main demand – is scheduled to take place.
Both sides are seeking a way out of nearly two decades of Afghan war, although the Taliban have so far refused to directly negotiate with the Afghan government.
The triple bombing in Kabul took place less than a week after nine people were killed and 33 injured in an attack on July 19, when a suicide bomber detonated his explosive-laden car near defense ministry facilities while being chased by police.
In a separate blast in the eastern province of Nangarhar, a roadside bomb planted by suspected militants hit a wedding party on Thursday, killing six women and three children of the same family, the provincial governor’s spokesperson Attaullah Khogyanai told EFE.
In Nangarhar, governor’s press office in a statement didn’t blame any particular group for the bombing and only said “enemies of the country and people” were behind the deadly explosion.