Afghan president visits key city following Taliban raid

Charlene Craig
August 19, 2018

"At around 4 p.m. this afternoon, a suicide attacker who had strapped explosives to his body detonated himself inside the Mawoud education center", police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai said. The standoff lasted for almost six hours before police killed the gunmen and secured the area. No group has claimed the responsibility of the attack so far. It also comes as US and Afghan forces intensify ground and air offensives against the Islamic State, and the Taliban step up their turf war with the group.

Afghan officials have confirmed the death toll, saying almost 70 others were wounded.

Mourners decried the unrelenting bloodshed, while others dismissed murmurings of possible ceasefires and peace negotiations between the government and the Taliban, even though the attack was claimed by IS.

The Dasht-e-Barchi area is populated by members of Afghanistan's minority ethnic Hazaras - a Shia community that has in the past been targeted by similar large-scale attacks.

IS, which considers Shiites to be heretics, frequently targets them, attacking their mosques, schools and cultural centers.

In the past two years, there have been at least 13 attacks on the Shiite community in Kabul alone.

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Families of the dead held a mass funeral Thursday where mourners wept and clutched the wooden coffins. The remaining victims will be taken to their villages to be buried there, said Gulam Hassan, the cousin of one of the victims.

Afghan president Ashraf Ghani is visiting the embattled city of Ghazni, a week after the Taliban in a surprise attack managed to infiltrate deep into the key provincial capital and capture several areas.

The blast was the latest in a wave of attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians, soldiers and policemen over recent days.

The Afghan Army prioritized transporting captured ISIS fighters to Kabul over re-supplying one of its bases in the northern Faryab province that the Taliban had been besieging for weeks, according to a New York Times report.

Mattis said Thursday some Taliban fighters were still holed up in houses in the city "trying to get resupplied".

In a separate incident, a spy agency training facility in Kabul was under attack early on Thursday.

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Samira Hamidi, Amnesty's South Asia campaigner, says "the deliberate targeting of civilians and the targeting of places of education is a war crime". "Mounting civilian casualties show beyond any doubt that Afghanistan and, in particular, its capital, Kabul, are not safe". Afghan troops backed by USA air support have struggled to push the insurgents from Ghazni, which lies just two hours south of Kabul by road, since the assault began late on Thursday.

Most of the recent attacks on schools have been outside Kabul in provinces like Nangarhar, a stronghold of Islamic State, whose tactics have become notorious since it first appeared in Afghanistan some four years ago. Sima was in the front row of the classroom in the single-room building where the explosion occurred.

"Dear General Bajwa! (Pakistani Army Chief) You signed document with us, you repeatedly told me on phone. you will pay special attention (to the Taliban activities on Pakistani soil)".

Faisal said Pakistan was fencing its border with Afghanistan with the objective of restricting cross-border movement of both "men and material" as part of its counter-terrorism efforts.

Provincial police spokesman Zia Durrani says the policemen discovered the vehicle packed with explosives late on Wednesday.

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