KABUL: A busload of Nepali security guards were among 23 people killed in a string of bombings across Afghanistan Monday, days after Washington expanded the US military’s authority to strike the insurgents.
The Taliban claimed the first attack which killed 14 Nepali security guards working for the Canadian Embassy in Kabul in a massive blast that left their yellow mini bus spattered with blood.
The insurgents also claimed a second, smaller blast in south Kabul targeting a local politician that the interior ministry said killed one person and injured five others, including the politician.
The Kabul blasts were followed just hours later by an attack on a market in the remote northeastern province of Badakhshan that authorities said killed at least eight people and wounded 18, with the death toll set to rise.
The wave of violence comes ten days after Washington announced an expansion of the US military’s authority to conduct air strikes against the Taliban, a significant boost for Afghan forces who have limited close air-support capacities.
Last month the militants, who have stepped up attacks in recent weeks as part of their annual spring offensive, named Haibatullah Akhundzada their new leader, in a swift power transition after former head Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan.
Police said the attack on the Nepali guards was carried out by a suicide bomber on foot shortly before 6:00 am (0130 GMT) on a main road leading east out of the capital towards the city of Jalalabad.
“As a result 14 foreigners were killed, all Nepali nationals,” the interior ministry said in a statement, adding that nine other people were wounded, including five Nepali citizens and four Afghans.
“@CanEmbAFG confirms that today’s cowardly attack targeted our security company,” the Canadian embassy in Afghanistan said on Twitter, offering condolences to the victims’ families and confirming that the attack did not breach the embassy compound.
The sound of the explosion could be heard across Kabul and a plume of smoke could be seen above the site of the blast on the Jalalabad road, a main route that houses many foreign compounds and military facilities.
More than two dozen ambulances rushed to the scene, an AFP journalist said, with police blocking off the road. The blast also shattered the windows of nearby shops.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack on social media, saying it was “against the forces of aggression” in Afghanistan.