The Taliban killed at least 20 people and wounded more than 100 in a blast outside of the main hospital in Zabul’s provincial capital of Qalat this morning.
A truck packed with explosives was parked near the hospital and was detonated, TOLONews reported. According to Ariana News, a suicide bomber detonated the explosives. Many of the victims of the Taliban attack had to be transported outside of the province.
“Because the government hospital was the primary medical facility in Qalat, ambulances were called to transport victims to Kandahar province, while others were taken to local private hospitals,” according to TOLONews .
The Taliban claimed credit for the attack but denied that it targeted the hospital. Instead, it claimed it was targeting the headquarters of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghanistan’s intelligence service.
“Blast damaged hospital b/c [because the] enemy is basing themselves in civilian areas & using civilians as human shields. Hospital was never targeted,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid wrote on his official Twitter account.
The Taliban claimed the NDS headquarters was destroyed and numerous NDS personnel were killed and wounded. Afghan officials denied the NDS compound was hit and said no NDS personnel were killed or wounded.
The Taliban is sensitive to claims that its operations kill or wounded Afghan civilians, as it attempts to portray itself as the protectors of the Afghan people. The terror group has warned civilians to stay away from places near government facilitates, including election sites, as it says these targets are fair game. However, given the scarcity of medical facilities, it is impossible for Afghan civilians to avoid hospitals such as the one in Qalat.
Today’s attack is the latest in a series by the Taliban that have killed civilians in major cities. Two days ago, the Taliban killed at least 28 people in a suicide at the entrance to an election rally for President Ghani in Charikar, the capital of Parwan province, and killed another 22 civilians in another suicide attack near the Ministry of Defense in Kabul.
Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, or AQIS, al Qaeda’s branch in South Asia, is aiding the Taliban in some of these attacks. Last weekend, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense noted that the Taliban supplies AQIS with explosives to build bombs that will be used to launch attacks in Kabul and other major cities.
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