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Deadly militant attack hits Afghanistan's Khost amid faltering 'peace' talks

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The file photo shows the aftermath of a car bombing in Afghanistan’s Khost Province.

A car bomb attack has killed at least seven people and wounded 33, including police forces and civilians, in Afghanistan’s eastern Khost Province, as a new UN report says  the ongoing 'peace' talks have failed to slow the civilian casualty toll.

The car bombing targeted a police special forces compound in the city of Khost, near the border with Pakistan, on Tuesday morning.

Gunmen then entered the building and engaged security officers in gun battles, according to local authorities.

“The security forces destroyed another car bomb before it reached its target,” Provincial Police Chief Daoud Tarakhel said, adding that “several security forces have been wounded in the attack.”

He said that the attackers had been confined to one building and that other parts of the police special unit compound had been cleared of the assailants.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian announced that at least four assailants had been killed during the clashes and that efforts were underway to neutralize the remaining militants.

“This morning, terrorists blew up a vehicle loaded with explosives near a special police unit in the area of the former governor office of Khost Province. Four terrorists were killed and efforts are underway to eliminate the other two terrorists,” the Afghan Interior Ministry said in a statement.

“In this incident, 16 soldiers and nine civilians were injured, and two people were martyred,” it said.

Khost Civil Hospital’s chief physician Sakhi Sardar said that the medical center had received 32 wounded soldiers and civilians — including women and children — as well as the bodies of three people.

The development came a day after US forces conducted yet another airstrike against a Taliban outpost in central Afghanistan despite a “peace” deal that Washington and the militants signed in February.

Under the deal, the militants agreed to stop their attacks on foreign forces in return for the US military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Official data shows, however, that bombings and other assaults have increased by 70 percent in Afghanistan.

More than 20 civilians, including women, were killed in bomb attacks carried out in the capital Kabul on Saturday.

Afghanistan deadliest place in world to be a civilian: UN report

A new report released by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on Monday expressed serious concern about the continuing rise in the number of civilian casualties across the country despite intra-Afghan peace talks, now underway following the deal between the United States and the Taliban.

In its latest quarterly report, the mission documented 5,939 civilian casualties (2,117 deaths and 3,822 injuries) from January 1 to September 30, 2020, insisting that high levels of violence continued throughout the country with a devastating impact on civilians, “with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian.”

The report said that “the harm done to civilians remains inordinate and shocking” and reiterated that all parties to the conflict can and must do more to protect civilians from harm by urgently reviewing practices and strengthening mitigation measures.

The mission raised “increasing concern over the intensification of the fighting in Helmand, as well as several indiscriminate attacks in Nangarhar, Laghman, and Ghor along with an airstrike in Takhar and a suicide attack targeting civilians in Kabul that taken together killed and injured more than 400 civilians.”

“The peace talks will need some time to help deliver peace. But all parties can immediately prioritize discussions and take urgent, and frankly overdue, additional steps to stem the terrible harm to civilians,” said Deborah Lyons, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan.

“New thinking and concrete action towards safeguarding civilian life will not only save thousands of families from suffering and grief but it can also help lessen recriminations and, instead, bolster confidence and trust among negotiators,” added Lyons, who also serves as UNAMA’s chief.

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