Multiple attacks killed more than 30 during the bloodiest day in Afghanistan in months.
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.
A police officer gestures from an ambulance transporting a person injured in a suicide bombing near an intelligence agency in Kabul.