KABUL, Afghanistan — On the eve of a symbolic date for America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, a truck laden with explosives blew up outdoors a guesthouse south of the capital on Friday evening, killing at least 27 individuals.
If the blast was the work of the Taliban — there was no rapid declare of accountability, although the Afghan authorities shortly blamed the insurgents — it could be probably the most overt sign but that the deal the Americans reached with the group at Doha in February 2020 is off.
A secret annex to that deal bars the Taliban from conducting suicide assaults, they usually had been in sharp decline till Friday. Instead, the Taliban has maneuvered over the previous 12 months to check grey areas of the settlement, by finishing up, for instance, focused assassinations of journalists, officers and intellectuals.
There has been a gentle drumbeat of these; on Saturday morning, a Kabul University professor was fatally shot in Kabul. And there was no letup in assaults on Afghan safety forces; dozens have been killed in latest weeks.
But Friday evening’s assault in Logar province, with its heavy toll, appeared to signify a deliberate shift in ways. The driver of the truck blew himself up in an assault that additionally killed quite a few college students from rural areas who had been staying at the ability earlier than college entrance exams, officers stated. The guesthouse belonged to the household of a outstanding member of the Afghan senate, himself just lately assassinated by the Taliban.
Dozens of individuals had been buried underneath the rubble of the obliterated guesthouse within the provincial capital of Pul-e Alam, about 40 miles south of Kabul, and over 100 extra had been wounded.
The blast occurred simply earlier than a May 1 deadline agreed to final 12 months by the Taliban and U.S. officers that was aimed at ending America’s 20-year navy presence in Afghanistan.
The U.S. scrapped the May 1 date two weeks in the past when President Biden extended the American deliberate withdrawal till Sept. 11. That extension angered the Taliban, who vowed there could be penalties if the U.S. didn’t totally adjust to the February 2020 deal.
The Taliban has usually stated that an American navy presence after May 1 would signify a violation of the Doha settlement, and has threatened to assault U.S. forces in response.
A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, stated on Twitter on Saturday that “this violation in principle has opened the way” for his facet’s forces “to take every counter-action it deems appropriate against the occupying forces.”
The Taliban’s personal web site made no point out of the blast in Pul-e Alam Saturday, merely saying that “7 puppets were killed when Mujahideen raided an enemy post” there — “puppets” being the group’s most popular time period for presidency troops.
Whether Friday evening’s lethal blast was retaliation in opposition to Mr. Biden’s extension was unclear Saturday. U.S. troops have already began to go away the nation, and American bases are being dismantled.
The Afghan authorities, ever wanting to painting the Taliban as faithless to the group’s settlement with the Americans, misplaced no time Saturday in pinning the blame on the Islamist rebel group.
“These people were preparing for the university entrance exam when the Taliban attacked them,” Hamdullah Mohib, Afghanistan’s nationwide safety adviser, stated on Saturday. “For the Taliban, every single Afghan is a target.”
The nation’s president, Ashraf Ghani, held the Taliban “responsible for this massive killing of the Muslim people of Afghanistan,” which he stated was “against God and against the people.”
The blast occurred simply as Afghans had been breaking their daylong Ramadan quick. The driver of the truck apparently pulled as much as the guesthouse, officers stated, claiming to convey provides for the breaking of the quick.
Just as he did so, the truck exploded, bringing down the roof and destroying the constructing. Photographs on the Tolo News web site confirmed rescuers looking out the rubble at the hours of darkness for survivors.
In one other signal of faltering authorities resistance and of the Taliban’s regular encroachment on Afghan cities, the insurgents overran a military base at the sting of the provincial capital of Ghazni on Friday evening, capturing 25 troopers.
Also Saturday, within the south, at Kandahar Airfield, a sprawling facility the place a small contingent of NATO and American forces had been dismantling what stays of their base there, the Taliban ushered in May 1 with an early afternoon rocket assault.
The U.S. navy responded instantly to the rocket assault with an airstrike on a Taliban place, a Defense official stated.
Fahim Abed and Fatima Faizi contributed reporting from Kabul, Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed from Kandahar, and Farooq Jan Mangal contributed from Khost.