Taliban militants launched a series of bombings across Afghanistan, targeting police and government facilities in attacks that killed 74 people and wounded more than 200, officials said Tuesday.
In the deadliest attack, Taliban militants detonated car bombs and then stormed a police training center in the eastern province of Paktia, sparking an hours-long battle, leaving 52 people dead.
Bombs planted in a truck and a Humvee detonated in succession, allowing Taliban gunmen to raid the police compound and open fire on officers and recruits, according to official accounts.
As black smoke billowed from the compound in the city of Gardez, Afghan security forces battled the militants — some officials said five, others said as many as 11 — for more than three hours as reports of casualties continued to rise.
When the fighting was over, hospital and military officials said they had received 52 bodies. The Afghan interior ministry issued a statement saying that the provincial police chief, Toryalai Abdiyani, was among the dead.
At least 20 civilians were among those killed in the attack, said the deputy interior minister, Murad Ali Murad. At least 158 people were wounded, he said.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani condemned the attack in a statement.
“As the government looks to move on with the values of peace and human rights, the terrorists’ emphasis is on the continuity of war,” Ghani’s office said.
Seventeen police officers were killed in two Taliban attacks elsewhere in Afghanistan, making it one of the deadliest days for Afghan forces in months.
In the central province of Ghazni, an explosives-packed Humvee blew up outside the Andar district governor’s compound early Tuesday morning. Arif Noori, a spokesman for the Ghazni provincial governor, said 15 police officers and five civilians were killed and 43 people were wounded.
In the western province of Farah, Taliban militants stormed the center of Shibkho district, along the Iranian border, late Monday and killed two police officers. The provincial governor’s spokesman, Mohammad Naser Mehri, said security forces responded and battled the gunmen for four hours before expelling them and regaining control of the district center.
The attacks came a day after representatives of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States met in the Persian Gulf kingdom of Oman in a bid to resuscitate peace talks in Afghanistan. The so-called Quadrilateral Coordination Group was established nearly two years ago to facilitate negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Its efforts stalled last year after a U.S. drone strike killed Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour in Pakistan.
The Taliban has steadily chipped away at the Afghan government’s control over territory, and the insurgents now hold or contest 40% of the country’s districts, according to U.S. estimates.
President Trump has authorized the deployment of as many as 3,800 additional U.S. troops, on top of 11,000 already in Afghanistan, to bolster the training and equipping of the struggling Afghan forces.
Special correspondent Faizy reported from Kabul and Times staff writer Bengali from Mumbai, India.
Follow @SBengali on Twitter for more news from South Asia