Afghan security officials yesterday began investigating Tuesday’s attacks in the capital, Kabul, and the southern city of Kandahar as the death toll climbed to at least 50.
The Afghan Ministry of Public Health raised the death toll from the Kabul attack to 37, with 98 wounded, while 13 people were confirmed dead in Kandahar. One security official said the death toll from the Kabul incident alone could reach as high as 45 to 50 with more than 100 wounded.
The violence highlights the precarious security situation in Afghanistan, which has seen a steady increase in attacks since international troops ended combat operations in 2014, with record numbers of civilian casualties.
Many of the Kabul victims were workers in parliamentary offices who were returning home in the afternoon rush hour or first responders hit when they were attending victims of an initial blast.
The Taliban, seeking to reimpose Islamic law after their 2001 ouster, claimed responsibility for the attack, which they said targeted a minibus carrying personnel from the National Directorate for Security, Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency.
However, they denied responsibility for the attack in Kandahar, which killed mainly government officials or diplomats from the United Arab Emirates, who were visiting the city to open an orphanage.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s National security adviser, Hanif Atmar, yesterday traveled to Kandahar to launch an investigation. Five Emirati officials, as well as Kandahar deputy governor Abdul Shamsi and a number of other senior officials were among the dead.
No claim of responsibility has been made for the attack, set off by a bomb hidden under sofas in the residence of the governor.
However, Kandahar Police Chief Abdul Razeq, a feared commander who was in the compound when the explosion occurred, but who escaped injury, accused Pakistan’s intelligence services and the Haqqani network, a militant group linked to the Taliban.
He said workers might have smuggled in the explosives used in the attack during construction work and said a number of people had been held for questioning.
The UN condemned the “unprincipled, unlawful and deplorable attacks,” which it said would make peace more difficult to achieve.
“Those responsible for these attacks must be held accountable,” said Pernille Kardel, the UN secretary-general’s deputy special representative for Afghanistan.
On the same day as the two attacks, seven people were killed in a Taliban attack on a security unit in the southern province of Helmand.