Suicide Bombing Kills Almost 50 At Kabul School As Afghanistan Bloodletting Continues

REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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A suicide blast at an educational center in Kabul killed at least 48 people Wednesday, the latest eruption of violence in a bloody six days that have seen hundreds of Afghan troops and civilians killed in battles with insurgents.

The explosion occurred in the courtyard of a testing center in western part of the capital where students had gathered to study for a college entrance exam. Witnesses say the blast ripped through a large tent that was serving as an outdoor classroom, killing dozens of teenagers.

“Most of the boys at the educational center have been killed,” Reuters quoted a witness as saying. “It was horrific and many of the students were torn to pieces.”

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. The blast hit a predominantly Shiite area of Kabul, pointing to involvement by the Islamic State, which is known for attacking Shiite gatherings and religious buildings. The Taliban issued a statement denying responsibility, Reuters reported.

Taliban fighters stormed two small bases in northern Baghlan province earlier Wednesday, killing dozens of Afghan soldiers and policemen. The firefight lasted throughout the morning and left at least 30 soldiers and 10 police officers dead, Stars and Stripes reported, citing the head of the Baghlan provincial council.

Wednesday’s spasm of violence was the latest in a discouraging six-day period that saw Afghan security forces sustain heavy casualties in battles with the Taliban across the country. Almost all of the Taliban assaults were against either fortified military positions or major urban centers, indicating the insurgency is gaining confidence as the summer fighting season progresses. (US Downplays Insurgency As Taliban Attacks Kill Hundreds Of Afghan Soldiers)

The most significant fighting occurred in Ghanzi, a key provincial captial about 75 miles south of Kabul. Taliban fighters infiltrated the outskirts of the city early Friday and engaged Afghan security forces in four days of intense firefights, burning government buildings and using civilian homes as command posts.

American airstrikes killed at least 200 of the Taliban guerrillas, according to U.S. Forces-Afghanistan. But the Taliban also exacted a heavy toll: more than 100 Afghan soldiers and policemen were killed in the the fighting, along with at least that many civilians, according to Afghanistan’s defense ministry.

As Taliban fighters besieged Ghazni, insurgents captured a remote Afghan National Army base in northwestern Faryab province on Monday. More than three dozen soldiers were killed or wounded defending the base, government officials said. The Taliban later issued a statement saying that 74 Afghan troops had surrendered and that they had captured eight military Humvees, Stars and Stripes reported.

Before the renewed fighting, the Taliban and the U.S.-backed government in Kabul said they would consider observing a cease-fire to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha next week. Both sides agreed to an unprecedented truce during the Eid al-Fitr holiday in June, but hostilities resumed as soon as the three-day celebration ended.

It remains unclear if the latest fighting has affected either side’s willingness to make another temporary truce.

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