A car bombing, a roadside blast and insurgent raids killed at least 22 people, including security forces and civilians, officials in Afghanistan said Saturday. The violence injured nearly 70 people, most of them civilians.
Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said Saturday the car bomb blast targeted a police base in the province of Herat, which borders Iran.
Arian said the explosion damaged at least 14 houses in a nearby residential area. Local officials said about 60 people, including 20 women and 12 children, were among the injured. At least five of the wounded people were in critical condition, hospital sources in Herat said.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. A spokesman for the Taliban insurgency said it had nothing to do with the bombing.
But Afghan President Ashraf Ghani blamed the Taliban, saying the insurgents “continued their illegitimate war and violence against our people” and “demonstrated once again they have no intention” for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
Separately, a roadside bomb went off Saturday morning in Tarinkot, capital of the southern Uruzgan province, killing three civilians and injuring four others, local officials said.
No group claimed responsibility for that attack.
Meanwhile, Taliban insurgents carried out pre-dawn raids in northern Kunduz and Balkh provinces, killing 11 Afghan National Army soldiers and injuring six others.
The assailants also captured five Afghan soldiers during Kunduz clashes, a local security official told VOA on condition of anonymity.
The Taliban spokesman confirmed insurgents staged both the attacks.
Violence has increased in Afghanistan in recent months, including a wave of targeted killings of civil society activists, journalists, and government officials.
Stalled peace process
The United States has renewed diplomatic efforts to help find a negotiated settlement to nearly two decades of Afghan hostilities and close what has been the longest overseas military intervention in U.S. history.
President Joe Biden’s administration recently submitted a draft peace plan to leaders of the Afghan government and the Taliban in a bid to revive a troubled peace process initiated by former U.S. president Donald Trump.
Biden’s proposed plan seeks formation of an “inclusive” interim government in Kabul to oversee talks between the Taliban and other Afghan groups. It suggests a United Nations-supervised effort to forge a regional consensus on Afghanistan to push Afghan rivals to stop fighting and agree on a power-sharing deal.
Meanwhile, Russia is preparing to host delegates next week in Moscow from the United States, China and Pakistan, saying the meeting is being held to discuss "ways to promote” a peaceful settlement to the Afghan conflict.
International diplomatic efforts to promote peace apparently stem from concerns the warring sides in Afghanistan are preparing to intensify the conflict in the coming spring fighting season.
The United Nations estimates the war, now in its 20th year, has killed or injured more than 100,000 Afghan civilians since 2009.
Russian officials say the Taliban and representatives of the Afghan government also have been invited to the March 18 meeting in Moscow.
On Saturday, Afghan national security adviser Hamdullah Mohib told reporters Kabul will send its delegation to the event in the Russian capital. The Taliban, which maintains close contacts with Russia, have not announced a decision about attending the Moscow meeting.