Mul­ti­ple at­tacks killed more than 30 dur­ing the blood­i­est day in Afghanistan in months.

The Washington Post - - REPUBLICANS SCRAMBLE TO EASE CONCERNS ABOUT WHAT R - BY SAYED SALAHUDDIN AND ERIN CUN­NING­HAM erin.cun­ning­ham@wash­post.com Cun­ning­ham re­ported from Is­tan­bul.

KABUL — Ap­par­ent Tal­iban bombers struck some of Afghanistan’s most heav­ily guarded sites Tues­day, set­ting off twin blasts near se­cu­rity agen­cies in the coun­try’s cap­i­tal and tar­get­ing diplo­matic talks in south­ern Afghanistan. More than 30 peo­ple were killed and scores wounded, in­clud­ing an Arab am­bas­sador and a pow­er­ful pro­vin­cial gov­er­nor.

The at­tacks marked one of the blood­i­est days in Afghanistan in months. They also again showed the in­sur­gents’ abil­ity to pen­e­trate Afghan se­cu­rity and dealt an­other blow to the gov­ern­ment’s claims that its U.S.-aided forces are gain­ing the up­per hand against the Tal­iban.

In Kabul, a sui­cide at­tacker ap­proached an in­tel­li­gence-agency build­ing be­fore det­o­nat­ing ex­plo­sives, said Kabul po­lice spokesman Basir Mu­jahid. A car bomb then ex­ploded as se­cu­rity forces gath­ered at the site of the first blast, Mu­jahid said.

Hours later, an ex­plo­sion took place out­side the gov­er­nor’s com­pound in the south­ern city of Kan­da­har as the gov­er­nor met with se­cu­rity of­fi­cials and the United Arab Emi­rates’ am­bassa- dor to Afghanistan, Kan­da­har po­lice of­fi­cials said.

In Abu Dhabi, a state­ment by the UAE Foreign Min­istry said the blast in­jured Am­bas­sador Juma Mo­hammed Ab­dul­lah al-Kaabi and other UAE diplo­mats but gave no im­me­di­ate de­tails on their con­di­tion.

A se­cu­rity of­fi­cial in Kan­da­har said the prov­ince’s gov­er­nor, Hu­mayun Az­izi, also was in­jured.

The rea­son for the high-level meet­ing was not dis­closed, although the UAE has been closely in­volved in Afghan af­fairs for decades. Ear­lier Tues­day, Az­izi said the talks in­volved a $2 mil­lion “train­ing project.”

The Tal­iban as­serted re­spon­si­bil­ity for the back-to-back bomb­ings in Kabul, say­ing the at­tack­ers tar­geted a minibus car­ry­ing em­ploy­ees of the Na­tional Direc­torate of Se­cu­rity, Afghanistan’s in­tel­li­gence agency. Po­lice said most of those killed had been trav­el­ing in minibuses — a com­mon form of trans­porta­tion in Afghanistan — at the height of the city’s late-af­ter­noon rush hour.

There was no im­me­di­ate as­ser­tion of re­spon­si­bil­ity for the Kan­da­har at­tack, but the area is a strong­hold of the Tal­iban.

Saleem Ra­souli, a se­nior pub­lic health of­fi­cial, said at least 33 peo­ple were killed and more than 70 wounded, the Reuters news agency re­ported. Other re­ports cited higher death tolls. The dis­crep­ancy in fa­tal­ity num­bers could not im­me­di­ately be rec­on­ciled.

The at­tack took place on a ma­jor road near the Afghan par­lia­ment build­ing and the Amer­i­can Univer­sity of Afghanistan, both of which pre­vi­ously have been tar­geted by Tal­iban in­sur­gents.

Po­lice cor­doned off the site af­ter the blasts and stepped up ve­hi­cle searches at check­points around the city. A thick col­umn of smoke could be seen ris­ing from the blast site af­ter the at­tack.

A se­cu­rity of­fi­cial, speak­ing on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause he was not autho­rized to brief jour­nal­ists, said the tar­get of the at­tack ap­peared to be the se­cu­rity direc­torate build­ing. A lo­cal in­tel­li­gence chief was killed, and a fe­male law­maker and two jour­nal­ists were among the wounded, the of­fi­cial said.

The ex­plo­sions came just hours af­ter a sui­cide at­tack killed seven peo­ple in the south­ern city of Lashkar Gah, in restive Hel­mand prov­ince. That at­tack also tar­geted an in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial, the Associated Press re­ported, quot­ing the Hel­mand po­lice chief.

Weeks of calm in the cap­i­tal had raised hopes that the gov­ern­ment would re­vive stalled peace talks with in­sur­gents, as the war grinds into its 16th year and mil­i­tants have ex­panded their con­trol.

In re­sponse to an uptick in at­tacks in places such as Hel­mand, the United States an­nounced that 300 more Marines would de­ploy to the prov­ince to train and as­sist Afghan se­cu­rity forces.

Most foreign troops with­drew from Afghanistan in 2014, af­ter which Afghan troops took the lead bat­tling in­sur­gents.

MO­HAM­MAD IS­MAIL/REUTERS

A po­lice of­fi­cer ges­tures from an am­bu­lance trans­port­ing a per­son in­jured in a sui­cide bomb­ing near an in­tel­li­gence agency in Kabul.

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