A powerful car bomb near a police station in Afghanistan’s western Herat province has killed at least eight people and wounded more than 50 others, officials said.
Rafiq Sherzai, a spokesman for the provincial hospital, said the death toll from Friday’s explosion in the city of Herat is expected to rise because several of the injured were in a critical condition.
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One among the dead and 11 of the wounded were Afghan security forces personnel while the remainder were civilians, including women and children, said Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian.
No one has claimed responsibility.
Herat Governor Sayed Abdul Wahid Qatali said several women and children were among the dead.”I’ve taken out six people by myself,” said Jalil Ahmad, a resident in Herat.
“There was no one who could help me to take people out of the rubble. I ask[ed] others to call the emergency services, but when the excavators came, we did not need them. All of them lost their lives,” he added.
Within hours of the attack, the United Nations Security Council at a press briefing in New York condemned an “alarming” increase in attacks in Afghanistan targeting civilians, even as the Taliban and the Afghan government hold on-again, off-again talks in Qatar.
“These heinous attacks have targeted civil servants, the judiciary, the media, healthcare and humanitarian workers, including women in prominent positions, those who protect and promote human rights, and ethnic and religious minorities,” the council said.
The ISIL (ISIS) group has claimed responsibility for many of the targeted killings while the Taliban and the government have blamed each other for trying to sabotage efforts to reach a peace agreement.
The slow pace of talks and the increasing violence has prompted the United States to cobble together a peace proposal, which was delivered last weekend.
Both sides are expected to review and revise the eight-page plan ahead of a far-reaching meeting the US has proposed to be held in Turkey within weeks, when Washington hopes to see an agreement.
The US, meanwhile, is reviewing a peace deal the Trump administration signed with the Taliban, which calls for the final withdrawal of the remaining 2,500 US troops from Afghanistan by May 1.
The growing consensus is for a delay but in a sternly worded letter to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani last weekend pressing for progress on making peace with the Taliban, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said all options, including the withdrawal, are still on the table.
The proposed peace deal offered by the US calls for an interim “peace government” to shepherd a post-war Afghanistan to elections and constitutional reforms. It also calls for the protection of equal rights for women and minorities.
“I don’t expect anything from this government. If this government has issues with the Taliban and if the Taliban has issues with this government they should fight each other but not us, not the people,” said Abdul Shakoor, another Herat resident.
“All the poor people who are trying to feed their children are [the ones] getting killed,” he added.
The UN Security Council also called for “full, equal and meaningful participation of women,” and a quick move towards a reduction in violence. According to the international organisation, more than 3,000 civilians have been killed in 2020.