11 Die in Afghan Roadside Blast; Militants Hit Eastern City

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Afghanistan — A roadside bombing hit a passenger bus in western Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing at least 11 people, as militants launched a coordinated attack on a city in the country’s east, setting off gunbattles with Afghan troops, officials said.

The morning attack in western Farah province took place in the Bala Buluk district and also wounded 31 people, all civilians, according to Abdul Jabar Shahiq, the provincial health department chief. There were women and children among the casualties.

The bus was on its way from Herat province toward the capital, Kabul, when it hit the roadside bomb, Shahiq said.

Details were sketchy for the attack in eastern Afghanistan, where militants launched a coordinated assault Tuesday on Jalalabad, the provincial capital of Nangarhar, according to local officials.

Zabihullah Zemarai, a member of the provincial council, said there was first a car bombing — likely an explosion set off by a suicide car bomber — near the city’s provincial hospital and health department, followed by gunfire.

Attahullah Khogyani, spokesman for the provincial governor, said the target appeared to be the provincial refugee and repatriation department, which is also located in the same area of the city.

He could not provide any detail on possible casualty figures as fighting was still underway at the department compound.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks. In Nangarhar, both the Taliban insurgents and the Islamic State group have been active.

The Taliban also have a strong presence in Farah, especially in Bala Buluk where they often plant roadside bombs to target government officials or Afghan security forces. Such attacks often end up inflicting significant casualties among civilians.

Farah has seen heavy fighting in recent months, with local officials and tribal elders requesting additional government forces to support the overburdened army and police. In May, more than 300 Taliban launched a multi-pronged attack on the city of Farah, the provincial capital, before they were repelled. At least 25 government troops were killed in the fighting.

The latest report by the United Nations says the number of civilians killed in Afghanistan in the first half of this year increased by 1 percent, compared to the same period last year. The U.N. mission in Afghanistan said the number — 1,692 killed by violence — is the highest 6-month death toll since the systematic documentation of civilian casualties started in 2009.

Since the United States and NATO formally concluded their combat mission at the end of 2014, a resurgent Taliban have stepped up attacks across the country and an Islamic State affiliate has also emerged, staging high-profile attacks that have claimed scores of civilian lives.

On other developments on Tuesday, IS claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack in Nangarhar when a suicide car bomber killed tribal leader Haji Hayat Khan, the commander of a local militia battling both the Taliban and IS militants, and three others.

In a statement posted by the IS affiliate’s Aamaq news agency, the militants warned all those fighting against them would meet the same fate. (AP)

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