Afghanistan: Dozens killed as Kabul, Taliban step up attacks
At least 50 civilians have been killed in separate incidents, as the West-backed Afghan government forces and Taliban fighters have stepped up attacks since a peace deal between the armed group and the United States collapsed earlier this month.
A US-backed air raid conducted by the Afghan security forces accidentally hit farmland in Nangarhar province killing about 30 civilians and injuring 40 others, while at least 20 people were killed in Zabul province in a suicide car bomb blast claimed by the Taliban group.
Afghan officials said the drone attack on Wednesday night was aimed at destroying a hideout used by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) group fighters, but it accidentally targeted farmers near a field in Wazir Tangi area of Khogyani district in Nangarhar province.
Sohrab Qaderi, a provincial council member in Nangarhar said a drone attack killed 30 workers in a pine nut field and at least 40 others were injured.
The defence ministry in Kabul confirmed the raid, but refused to share casualty details immediately.
Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the provincial governor of Nangarhar confirmed the air raid.
"The government is investigating the incident. So far nine bodies are collected from the attack site near a pine nut field," he said.
US forces were not immediately available for comment.
Malik Rahat Gul, a tribal elder in Wazir Tangi, said the air raid happened at a time when tired workers, mainly daily wage earners, had gathered near their tent after harvesting pine nuts in a field nearby.
"The workers had lit a bonfire and were sitting together when a drone targeted them," said Gul.
Earlier this month, four brothers were killed in a raid by the CIA-trained and funded 02 Unit of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) spy agency.
Spike in Taliban attacks
The Taliban fighters wanted to target a training base for Afghanistan's powerful spy agency, NDS, but parked the explosives-laden truck outside a hospital gate nearby, a defence ministry source said.
Al Jazeera's Rob McBride, reporting from the capital, Kabul, said several women, children, health workers and patients in the hospital were critically injured in the blast.
"[The] truck bomb that drove up against an exterior wall of the NDS building detonated, but right next door was a provincial hospital that has taken the brunt of this explosion ... the death toll is likely to rise," he said.
The spike in Taliban attacks comes as Afghanistan prepares for the presidential election scheduled to be held on September 28.
Afghan security members and people work at the site of a suicide attack in Zabul [Ahmad Wali Sarhadi/AP]
The Taliban has warned that its fighters will step up their campaign against the Afghan government and foreign forces to dissuade people from voting in the presidential election.
"The government is still going ahead with its preparation for elections and trying to open up the number of polling stations," McBride said.
"As the Taliban say, they are still open to peace talks; the Afghan government is saying it has to resume only after elections."
Afghan security forces investigate the site where a Taliban car bomb detonated near an intelligence services building [AFP]
More than 9 million Afghans are expected to vote in the presidential election, for which the government has deployed more than 70,000 security forces across the country.
US President Donald Trump abruptly ended talks with the Taliban earlier this month for a deal on the withdrawal of thousands of American troops from Afghanistan in exchange for security guarantees from the Taliban.
The talks, which did not include the Afghan government, were intended to lead to wider peace negotiations to end the 18-year-long war in Afghanistan.