KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – Taliban bombers targeting a district center in southern Afghanistan have killed at least 19 people, including 8 election workers, officials said on Sunday, June 30.
The attack comes as a new round of talks between the United States and the Taliban to end the 18-year long war in Afghanistan entered a second day in Qatar.
The militants rammed 4 armored vehicles packed with explosives into a government compound in Maruf district late Saturday, June 29, a police spokesman in southern Kandahar province said.
"Unfortunately 11 policemen were martyred and 27 more injured," Qasim Afghan told Agence France-Presse.
Eight election workers who were stationed at the center to register voters ahead of the presidential polls in September were also killed in the attack, said Zabiullah Sadaat, a spokesman for Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission (IEC).
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, with a spokesman tweeting that their fighters had captured the district center, killing 57 security forces.
Afghanistan's interior ministry however rejected the claim, saying in a statement that the militants had been beaten back and 25 insurgents killed.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani condemned the "barbaric and unforgivable" attacks, which are the latest in a relentless wave of assaults by the Taliban, who now hold sway over about half of the country and regularly target government forces.
The insurgents killed at least 25 members of a pro-government militia in an attack in northern Baghlan province on Saturday.
The violence comes amid stepped-up efforts by the United States to find a negotiated end to America's longest war, with Washington and the Taliban opening a fresh round of negotiations in Doha on Saturday. – Rappler.com