Afghanistan roadside bombing kills 11 on passenger bus

A roadside bombing hit a passenger bus in western Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing at least 11 people, as militants launched a coordinated attack on a city in the country's east where initial reports said four people were killed, according to officials.

The morning attack in western Farah province took place in the Bala Buluk district and also wounded 31 people, all civilians, according to Abdul Jabar Shahiq, the provincial health department chief.

The bus was on its way from Herat province toward the capital, Kabul, when it hit the roadside bomb, Shahiq said, adding that women and children were among the casualties.

Details were slowly emerging for the attack in eastern Afghanistan, where militants launched a coordinated assault in the city of Jalalabad, the Nangarhar provincial capital, local officials said.

Smoke rises from a building after a deadly attack including a suspected suicide car bombing and gunbattles, in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Tuesday, July 31, 2018. An Afghan provincial official said a coordinated attack was underway by the Taliban in the city of Jalalabad, the capital of eastern Nangarhar province. (AP Photo)

AP  (July 31, 2018: Smoke rises from a building after a deadly attack including a suspected suicide car bombing and gunbattles, in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.)

Initial reports said four people were killed and at least eight were wounded, including two policemen.

The militants targeted the Jalalabad government building of the refugee and repatriation department, according to Gen. Ghulam Sanayee Stanikzai, the provincial police chief.

Stanikzai and Gov. Hayatullah Hayat say Afghan forces killed two militants during the battle.

Zabihullah Zemarai, a member of the provincial council, said the attack started with a car bombing — likely an explosion set off by a suicide car bomber — near the city's provincial hospital and health department, followed by gunfire.

Afghan forces reacted quickly and rescued all participants of a meeting of non-governmental organizations that was taking place in the nearby building as well as the head of the refugee department, said Attahullah Khogyani, Hayat's spokesman.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks. In Nangarhar, both the Taliban insurgents and the Islamic State group have been active.

The Taliban also have a strong presence in Farah, especially in Bala Buluk where they often plant roadside bombs to target government officials or Afghan security forces. Such attacks often end up inflicting significant casualties among civilians.

Farah has seen heavy fighting in recent months, with local officials and tribal elders requesting additional government forces to support the overburdened army and police. In May, more than 300 Taliban launched a multi-pronged attack on the city of Farah, the provincial capital, before they were repelled. At least 25 government troops were killed in the fighting.

The latest report by the United Nations says the number of civilians killed in Afghanistan in the first half of this year increased by 1 percent, compared to the same period last year. The U.N. mission in Afghanistan said the number — 1,692 killed by violence — is the highest 6-month death toll since the systematic documentation of civilian casualties started in 2009.

Since the United States and NATO formally concluded their combat mission at the end of 2014, a resurgent Taliban have stepped up attacks across the country and an Islamic State affiliate has also emerged, staging high-profile attacks that have claimed scores of civilian lives.

On other developments on Tuesday, ISIS claimed responsibility for Monday's attack in Nangarhar when a suicide car bomber killed tribal leader Haji Hayat Khan, the commander of a local militia battling both the Taliban and ISIS militants, and three others.

In a statement posted by ISIS' Aamaq news agency, the militants warned all those fighting against them would meet the same fate.