Two suicide blasts rocked Kabul on Wednesday, killing eight Afghan soldiers and injuring at least 21 people a day after the new Afghan government signed an agreement to keep U.S. troops in the country, officials said.
The first blast, near Kabul University in the west of the capital, targeted a bus transporting members of the Afghan National Army, leaving seven soldiers dead and injuring 15 others, officials said.
Twitter accounts purportedly belonging to the Taliban claimed that "around 20 officers" were killed in the first attack in Kabul, and in a statement the group condemned new President Ashraf Ghani's government as a foreign "stooge regime." The group has been known to exaggerate death tolls in attacks for which it claims responsibility.
U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham dismissed claims that the attacks were a response to the bilateral security agreement, or BSA, that Ghani's government signed with the United States on Tuesday. The agreement spells out conditions for maintaining the approximately 9,800 U.S. troops that are expected to remain in Afghanistan after December, when the mandate of the current U.S.-led NATO coalition ends.
"The Taliban have consistently been trying to launch attacks in the nation," Cunningham said at a news briefing at the embassy. "This has nothing to do with the BSA."
Ghani ordered the attorney general's office and other law enforcement agencies to track down evidence, and tasked the Finance Ministry, central bank and other institutions to retrieve stolen funds.
Two former chiefs of the bank were sentenced to jail terms and received hefty fines last year, but anti-corruption watchdogs said the verdicts were too lenient and did not guarantee that the stolen funds would be recovered.
The scandal at the bank, which had more than 1 million depositors, required a government bailout, nearly forced the collapse of Afghanistan's banking sector and raised serious questions among Afghans and international donors about the stability of the country's financial system.