At least 12 civilians have been killed and more than 100 people wounded after a car bomb explosion in Afghanistan’s western province of Ghor, according to government officials.
Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Aran said Sunday’s bombing struck near the entrance of the provincial police chief’s office and other nearby government buildings in Feroz Koh, the capital of Ghor.
Arif Aber, spokesman for the provincial governor in Ghor, said the blast was so strong that its sound could be heard across Feroz Koh.
“It damaged and partially destroyed a few government buildings, including the police chief’s office, the women’s affairs department and the provincial office for refugees,” Aber said.
The head of a hospital in Ghor, Mohammad Omer Lalzad, said emergency staff were treating dozens of people with both serious and light wounds.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, which came amid an uptick in attacks by the Taliban.
Tens and thousands of people have been displaced in recent days after intense fighting between the Taliban and the Afghan government forces in several districts of Helmand province and parts of the neighbouring Kandahar province.
Sporadic fighting continued on Sunday as government forces pushed with a counter-offensive to retake some of the lost ground in and around Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand, according to officials.
The US had been conducting air raids in support of Afghan forces in Helmand, sparking a blame game between the Americans and the Taliban.
The armed group on Sunday said the aerial assaults violated an agreement the US signed with it in February in Qatar’s capital, Doha.
Remarks by spokesman of Islamic Emirate concerning bombings and recurrent violation of agreement by US forces in Helmand pic.twitter.com/CWlL1KJRXu
— Zabihullah (..ذبـــــیح الله م ) (@Zabehulah_M33) October 18, 2020
“All contents of the US-Islamic Emirate agreement are unambiguous, but the opposite side has violated its commitments on numerous occasions, are engaging in provocative actions and bombing non-combat zones,” the Taliban said in a statement.
But the US military dismissed the Taliban’s accusation.
“US airstrikes in Helmand and Farah have been and continue to be solely in defence of the ANDSF as they are being attacked by the Taliban,” US military spokesman Colonel Sonny Leggett said on Twitter referring to Afghan government forces.
“The entire world has witnessed the Taliban’s offensive operations in Helmand– attacks which injured and displaced thousands of innocent Afghan civilians.”
1/3 We categorically reject the Taliban’s claim the United States has violated the U.S.-Taliban Agreement. U.S. airstrikes in Helmand and Farah have been and continue to be solely in defense of the ANDSF as they are being attacked by the Taliban.
— USFOR-A Spokesman Col Sonny Leggett (@USFOR_A) October 18, 2020
Under the deal, the Taliban said they would not attack cities while the US said it would refrain from assaults on the fighters except to defend the Afghan forces. Afghan officials accused the Taliban of breaching the agreement with an assault on Lashkar Gah.
The clashes in Helmand come more than a month after intra-Afghan peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government began in Doha.
The talks appear to be stalled as the Taliban and the Kabul administration have struggled to establish a basic framework for negotiations.