Eight people were killed and at least 47 others wounded, mostly women and children, in an explosion of an explosives-laden car near a police station in western Afghanistan on Friday night, officials said on Saturday.
The powerful explosion took place on Friday night at 9.20 pm (14.50 GMT Friday) in the 14th police district, PD-14, in a civilian-populated area, an army official in the province told Efe, requesting anonymity. Most of the victims of the targeted attacks are civilians, including rights activists, intellectuals and journalists.
Eight people were killed and 47 wounded in the blast in the city of Herat and "among the dead there is one member of the security forces and seven civilians: two men, two women and three children," Jailani Farhad, spokesman for the governor of Herat, told AFP. At least 20 women and eight children were wounded, as well as eight members of the Afghan forces, he said. Dozens of houses and shops were damaged, Farhad said.
Rafiq Sherzai, spokesman for the Herat hospital, confirmed the death toll. Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian confirmed the death toll and told EFe that so far they have received eight dead and 47 wounded. Among the dead are one policeman and seven civilians, including three children, two women and two men. "Unfortunately in this attack Taliban terrorists have targeted civilians," he added without providing further details.
"The injured have been evacuated to Herat hospital and are undergoing emergency treatment (...) Five injured patients are in critical condition and our doctors are trying to save their lives," Sherzai said.
Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian confirmed the same death toll in a statement, but increased the number of injured from 47 to 54. According to Arian, at least 14 civilian houses were destroyed in the blast which he attributed to the Taliban.
The Taliban have neither denied nor confirmed responsibility for the attack. Although the Taliban have carried out fewer car bombings in urban areas following the signing of the peace agreement with the US in Doha in February last year, the group has continued these attacks in rural areas and on the outskirts of cities. In the Doha agreement, the fighters promised to significantly reduce violence, particularly their attacks in urban areas. However, insurgents continue to practice violent attacks in the country, particularly in the form of targeted assassinations in urban areas.
Although Herat, one of the country's largest cities, remains under government control, it is surrounded by rural areas where fighting rages between Afghan forces and the Taliban. Friday's attack has so far not been claimed. As part of the peace process launched last year, the Taliban pledged to stop large-scale attacks in urban centres. However, major cities have for several months been suffering from a wave of targeted assassinations of journalists, judges, doctors, political and religious figures, and rights activists. The Afghan and US authorities have blamed the Taliban for these killings.
The Herat attack comes less than a week before talks in Moscow between Afghan authorities and insurgents, which are being attended by several international delegations. For its part, Turkey announced on Friday that it will host inter-Afghan peace talks in Istanbul in April.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani blamed the Taliban for Friday night's attack, saying they "continue their illegitimate war and violence against our people" and "have shown once again that they have no intention of reaching a peaceful solution to the current crises". Meanwhile, the UN Security Council on Friday condemned "in the strongest terms the alarming number of attacks deliberately targeting civilians in Afghanistan". Council members also "strongly encouraged the parties to the (inter-Afghan) negotiations to take confidence-building measures, including the reduction of violence".
Despite peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban that began in Doha in September, violence has only increased. Under the US-Taliban agreement, signed under US President Donald Trump's administration in February 2020, the US has committed to withdrawing all its troops from Afghanistan by 1 May. The departure has the Afghan government worried, but current US President Joe Biden has not yet confirmed whether the deadline will be met.
Washington recently presented Afghan authorities and the Taliban with a draft peace agreement that envisages the creation of a "new inclusive government", according to a letter from US diplomatic chief Antony Blinken revealed by Afghan media. Russia on Friday said it favoured the formation of an interim "administration" that includes the Taliban to run Afghanistan.