Officials in Afghanistan say a suicide bomber Saturday detonated an explosives-laden mini truck in the country’s eastern Nangarhar province, killing at least 15 people and injuring dozens more.
The war-ravaged country has witnessed an escalation of violence in recent weeks, even as representatives of the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents are holding peace talks in Doha, the capital of Qatar.
A government spokesman in Nangarhar told VOA the deadly afternoon bombing in the Ghani Khel district occurred near a security installation linked to the Afghan spy agency.
Attaullah Khogyani said both security personnel and civilians were among those killed and injured. He said the death toll could increase.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attack, which happened in an Afghan province where both the Taliban and militants linked to the local branch of the Islamic State terror group are active.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani issued a formal statement denouncing the attack as an “unforgivable crime” by Taliban-linked militants who targeted innocent civilians.
"The Taliban continue to perpetrate their acts of terror in collusion with other terrorist groups, massacre civilians and damage public facilities on a daily basis,” the official statement quoted Ghani as saying.
Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian also blamed the Taliban for plotting the violence.
In a video statement released via Twitter, Arian said the insurgents had carried out 650 attacks in the last two weeks, killing nearly 70 civilians and injuring many more. The Taliban has not responded to the allegations.
The insurgent group has turned down repeated domestic and international calls for a cease-fire until a political arrangement emerges from the ongoing intra-Afghan peace negotiations.
The peace dialogue stems from a February agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban to end nearly two decades of Afghan war. The talks began Sept. 12 but no significant headway has been made so far.
The lack of progress prompted U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, to return to Doha earlier this week to press the rival teams to resolve their differences and move the process forward.
“The Afghan people and the international community are watching closely and expect the negotiations to make progress toward producing a roadmap for Afghanistan’s political future and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire,” Khalilzad tweeted before landing in the Qatari capital.