Taliban militants detonated two truck bombs and tried to storm police and intelligence buildings in eastern Afghanistan, killing 33 people and wounding more than 150, officials said Thursday.
Nineteen militants were involved in the early-morning attack in Ghazni province, the Afghan Interior Ministry said. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in text messages to the media.
Officials said the truck bombs exploded in quick succession and that the assailants then attempted to raid the buildings on foot, triggering a gun battle with Afghan security forces, who killed 16 militants. Two attackers detonated suicide vests and another was captured alive, Mohammad Ali Ahmadi, the deputy governor of the province, told reporters.
Eight security personnel were among the dead.
The heavy explosions rained debris across the surrounding area, which includes homes, restaurants, stores and the provincial capital’s museum, which suffered damage. Hospital officials said that many victims were hurt when the windows of their homes shattered.
“Many of the patients described the severity of the bombs,” said Baz Mohammad Hemat, director of the provincial hospital.
The bombing marked the second attack on the Afghan intelligence agency in a week. A similar attack in the eastern city of Jalalabad left six dead and 33 others injured Aug. 30.
“Attacks of this nature are meant to send a message to the government that the opposition can infiltrate the centers of their security apparatus,” said Borhan Osman, a Ghazni native and researcher with the Kabul-based Afghanistan Analysts Network.
The intelligence agency, known as the National Directorate of Security, is responsible for the detention of many suspected Taliban members and has repeatedly been accused by human rights groups of prisoner abuse and torture. The Taliban has in the past used these accusations as a justification for its attacks.
Also Thursday, Afghanistan’s defense minister, Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, traveled to Wales to represent the country at a two-day conference of NATO heads of state.
U.S. officials had hoped that Afghanistan’s new president would attend the summit, which is expected to include a discussion of NATO’s role in the country after coalition combat troops withdraw at year’s end. But the election result is still in dispute amid a much delayed, United Nations-supervised recount of the June runoff vote.
Election officials said the audit of all 8 million votes should be completed by Friday, but negotiations over the makeup of a post-election government were still ongoing between the rival candidates, former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah.
Outgoing President Hamid Karzai, who remains in his post in a caretaker role, opted not to attend the NATO meeting.
Latifi is a special correspondent.