Afghanistan Highway Blast Kills at Least 35 on Bus, Injures 27

HERAT, Afghanistan (Reuters) —
An Afghan security force member inspects the site of Sunday’s attack in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Reuters/Mohammad Ismail)

A roadside bomb in western Afghanistan killed at least 35 people traveling on a bus, including children, and injured 27 others, officials said on Wednesday.

Security has been deteriorating across Afghanistan, with the Taliban and Islamic State terrorists mounting near-daily attacks on Afghan forces, government employees and civilians.

The blast on the highway linking the provincial capitals of Herat and Kandahar occurred in the Ab Khorma area of Farah province, said provincial police spokesman Mohibullah Mohib.

“The bomb was freshly planted by the Taliban insurgents to target Afghan and foreign security forces,” he said, adding that most of the dead or injured were women and children.

A Taliban official said their fighters were not responsible for planting landmines in the area.

“The blast has not been conducted by the Taliban; we are investigating the incident,” said spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

So far, no militant group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Government and aid officials say the numbers of those being killed and maimed is rising because of new explosives planted by the Taliban, who now control more territory than at any point since their ouster nearly 18 years ago.

According to the United Nations Mine Action Service, more than 1,415 Afghan civilians were killed or injured by landmines and explosive remnants of war last year. In eastern Nangarhar province, clashes between the Taliban and Afghan forces on Wednesday caused civilian casualties.

Sohrab Qaderi, a provincial council member of Nangarhar, said Afghan special forces conducted operations in the Gandumak area which is under Taliban control.

“Two Taliban fighters and five civilians were killed,” said Qaderi.

Afghan and foreign forces said civilians are hurt or killed during ground raids or airstrikes as insurgents use them as human shields.

At least 3,812 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first half of 2019 in the war against militant groups, including a big increase in the number of casualties caused by government and foreign forces, the United Nations said in a report published on Tuesday.

Wednesday’s blast comes ahead of U.S. officials and Taliban representatives resuming peace talks to agree on a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign forces in exchange for security guarantees by the Taliban.

Security experts working on demining projects said American negotiators must get the Taliban to sign an action plan to clear mines and unexploded ordnance as part of a framework peace agreement.

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