Two suicide bombers targeting Afghan government and military employees killed at least nine people on Monday and wounded 23, officials said.
Six civilians died and nine were injured in a blast outside a bakery shop in Yahyakhil district of Paktika province, an area near Afghanistan’s eastern border with Pakistan, district governor Musa Khan Kharuti said.
The suicide bomber apparently targeted police and government employees buying bread, a provincial police official said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Earlier in the day, three people were killed in an attack on a bus carrying Afghan army personnel in Dehdadi district, not far from the Balkh provincial capital of Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence said.
The ministry put the number of wounded at eight, while Munir Ahmad Farhad, a spokesperson for the Balkh provincial governor, said that 14, including three women, had been injured.
The bomber detonated a suicide vest near the bus as it was carrying members of the army’s 209th Shaheen Corps, and all of the reported casualties were army employees, Farhad said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on the military bus in a statement released online. The statement named a resident of Wardak province, which neighbours the Afghan capital city of Kabul, as the attacker.
Buses carrying military and government employees to and from work have been common targets for insurgent groups like the Taliban, who are seeking to topple the Western-backed government in Kabul and reimpose harsh Islamic rule 15 years after they were ousted form power.
Afghan security forces have suffered record casualties since NATO ended its combat mission in December 2014, leaving them to battle the resurgent Taliban largely on their own.
At least 20 Afghan policemen were killed on February 1 when a suicide bomber struck outside their base in the capital Kabul.
With neither side in the conflict seemingly able to achieve a decisive victory, the Afghan government, regional powers and the United States have pinned their hopes on a peace settlement.
On Saturday representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the US announced that direct talks between Kabul and the Taliban were expected to take place by the end of the month, indicating the insurgent group are willing to return to negotiations six months after an earlier round of dialogue collapsed.
The role of Pakistan, which backed the Islamist group during their 1996- 2001 rule and is accused of sheltering its leaders in exile, is seen as key in persuading the Taliban to return to talks.
(With inputs from AFP)