By Lucia Suarez Sang
Published September 17, 2019
Twin suicide bombings rocked various parts of Afghanistan Tuesday, killing at least 48 people and wounding dozens in the deadliest single day since a peace agreement with Taliban insurgents was declared dead.
In the first suicide attack, the bomber rammed his motorcycling packed with explosives into the entrance to the venue where President Ashraf Ghani was hosting a campaign rally in the outskirts of the northern city of Charakar in Parwan province.
Ghani – who was in attendance at the time – was uninjured; the blast occurred some distance from where the president was addressing a crowd of about 2,200, a spokesman for his campaign said.
Local television footage of the attack showed twisted wreckage and charred remains of military and police vehicles that were apparently positioned near where the powerful blast went off.
The explosion killed 26 people. Another 42 people were wounded, many of them women and children.
Just hours later, a second explosion struck in downtown Kabul, near Massood Square, a deeply congested intersection in the center of the capital city. NATO and U.S. compounds are located nearby as are several government ministries.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for both blasts and said they were targeting an Afghan army base. The second blast killed 22 people and wounded scores of others, officials said.
Ghani condemned both attacks, saying the Taliban have “once again proven that they have no will and desire for peace and stability in Afghanistan.”
In a statement released by the presidential palace, Ghani was quoted as saying that the Taliban’s “movements are not but deceit.”
Campaigning for the Afghan elections resumed last week after President Donald Trump declared that the U.S.-Taliban talks, which have been going on for months in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, are over.
Most presidential candidates had suspended their campaigns while negotiations were taking place and as the U.S. peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, said a deal was all but signed.
Trump's tweets at the beginning of September declaring the deal and the talks were "dead" launched the war-battered nation on an election campaign.
Ghani, who had been sidelined during much of the talks between Khalilzad and the Taliban, resumed campaigning immediately and had been steadfast in his demand that presidential polls should take place.
The Taliban have refused to discuss a cease-fire and have stepped up attacks across the country. Meanwhile, Afghan forces backed by their U.S. allies have intensified raids on militant hideouts in recent weeks.
The Taliban have also refused to meet with representatives of Ghani's government for talks but it was two attacks in Kabul in recent weeks that caused Trump to halt the negotiations with the Taliban, including one that killed two NATO soldiers, one of whom was an American. Another U.S. soldier died in combat in Afghanistan on Monday. He was identified as Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Griffin from Greenbrier, Tennessee, a Special Forces Soldier.
Monday's death was the 17th U.S. combat death in Afghanistan this year, according to the Pentagon's count. There also have been three non-combat deaths this year. More than 2,400 Americans have died in the nearly 18-year war.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.