A Taliban truck bomb killed at least 20 people and injured 95 others when it exploded near a hospital in southern Afghanistan on Thursday, a provincial official said, with casualties expected to rise as rescuers searched the rubble from the blast.
The Taliban, who have been carrying out nearly daily attacks since the collapse of peace talks with the United States this month, said the target was a nearby building housing the government’s intelligence department in Qalat, the capital of Zabul Province.
“The bomb was huge and it was carried by a mini-truck,” said a senior Defense Ministry official in the capital, Kabul, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the news media.
The militants wanted to target a training base for Afghanistan’s powerful National Directorate of Security, but parked the vehicle laden with explosives outside a hospital gate nearby, said another Defense Ministry official.
Twenty bodies and 95 injured people have been taken from the blast site, said Haji Atta Jan Haqbayan, a member of the provincial council in Qalat.
“The number of casualties may rise as rescue teams and people are still searching for bodies under the rubble,” he added.
Several women, children, health workers and patients in the hospital were critically injured in the blast.
There has been no letup in Taliban attacks across Afghanistan as it prepares for a presidential election this month.
At least 26 people were killed and 42 were injured Tuesday in a Taliban attack outside a heavily guarded compound in Parwan Province where President Ashraf Ghani was holding a rally. The president was not hurt in the attack.
The Taliban has warned that its fighters will step up their campaign against the Afghan government and foreign forces to discourage people from voting in the Sept. 28 election.
More than nine million Afghans are expected to vote in the presidential election, and the government has committed more than 70,000 security forces across Afghanistan to provide protection.
President Trump abruptly ended talks this month with the Taliban that sought to secure the withdrawal of thousands of American troops from Afghanistan in exchange for security guarantees from the hard-line Islamist group.