KABUL – A Taliban suicide bomber struck a government bus in Kabul on Sunday, killing three and wounding at least 16 others, officials said, the second such attack in less than a week in the Afghan capital.
The bus was transporting employees of the attorney general’s office to their homes when a man on foot detonated explosives strapped to his body, they said.
“We can confirm three dead including a woman among them, and at least 16 others were wounded, three of them were women,” Gul Agha Rohani, deputy police chief of Kabul, told AFP.
“The shuttle bus was carrying the attorney general office staff to their homes when it came under attack,” Rohani said, with all casualties civilians.
Kabul’s criminal investigative director Farid Afzali confirmed the account, putting the number of wounded at 18.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which comes after the launch of their spring offensive last month, saying a number of staff of the attorney general were killed and wounded in the attack.
The Taliban are known to exaggerate and distort their public statements as part of a propaganda drive accompanying their campaign against the Afghan and US-led foreign forces who ousted them from power in 2001.
Scores of shuttle buses take government and military personnel to work every morning in the capital, and they have often been targeted by insurgents despite efforts by security forces to provide better protection.
This year’s Taliban push marks the first fighting season in which Afghan forces will battle the insurgents without the full support of US-led foreign combat troops.
NATO’s combat mission formally ended in December but a small follow-up foreign force has stayed on to train and support local security personnel.
The Taliban have stepped up attacks on government and foreign targets and inflicted a heavy toll on civilians and Afghan security forces.
The number of civilians killed and wounded jumped 22 percent in 2014 compared to the previous year, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
And in the first three months of 2015, civilian casualties from ground fighting were up eight percent on the same period last year, a new UNAMA report said.
Reuters adds: Dozens of Taliban fighters attacked local government buildings in a district of northwestern Afghanistan on Sunday and may have captured the whole area, officials said.
The attack is part of a wider Taliban offensive in the north of Afghanistan that is proving a tough test for the NATO-trained Afghan police and army, who have no foreign combat assistance following the withdrawal last year of most international troops.
Commenting on the attacks in the district of Jawand, which is in the province of Badghis, provincial council chief Baha Agheem said: “The district has already fallen to the insurgents and the police and district chiefs have fled the area.
A spokesman for the provincial governor, Mirwais Mirzakwal, said the fighting was still raging but that the district looked likely to fall into the insurgents’ hands.
The insurgents are also pressing attacks elsewhere in northern Afghanistan, notably on the major provincial capital of Kunduz, where fighting has dragged on for two weeks.
The Taliban has long held sway over some rural districts, especially in its traditional southern and eastern strongholds, but this year the insurgents have also expanded attacks in the north with an eye toward grabbing more territory.