At least 27 people have been killed and dozens more wounded after a powerful vehicle-borne bomb went off in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Logar, local officials say.
The deadly explosion occurred after a truck packed with explosives detonated in Azr district of the provincial capital of Pul-e Alam on Friday evening, the spokesman for Logar's governor said, adding that high school students were among the casualties.
He also noted that the huge blast took place near the house of the former head of the provincial council, Didar Lawang.
The head of Logar's provincial council, Hasibullah Stanekzai, said that the said house operated as a guesthouse and the explosion, which occurred at around 6:30 p.m. local time, had struck as guests were breaking their fast during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, adding that 27 people had lost their lives and dozens more wounded.
He also said that many of those gathered at the building were students who were there to attend the university entrance exam in the coming week.
Interior ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said in a statement that 92 people sustained injuries in the blast but he lowered the death toll to 21 people. He added that a rescue and recovery operation was continuing.
“The roofs of houses have collapsed and people are trapped under the debris. The security forces are trying to rescue those trapped,” he said.
A provincial health official told Reuters that just over 60 wounded people had been taken to hospital and that many students were among the victims.
In a statement, the European Union's delegation to Afghanistan also condemned the attack.
“In the holy month of Ramadan, horrible news on a car bomb in Pul-e-Alam, Logar province, killing and injuring innocent civilians, including students....this is a tragedy for the whole country,” it said on Twitter.
So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the blast, but officials quickly accused the Taliban militant group of plotting it.
The developments come as both local security forces and the Taliban are preparing for fresh fighting in the spring. It also occurred despite the Afghan government and the Taliban are negotiating to find an end to years of bloodshed in the country.
The deadly violence also came just a day before the United States and its NATO partners officially begin pulling out the last of their troops of the war-torn country.
The military withdrawal of about 2,500 American soldiers and around 7,000 allied troops is scheduled to be completed by September 11.
The US along with its NATO allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001 under the guise of fighting terrorism and dismantling the Taliban.
The invasion — which has turned into the longest war in US history — removed the Taliban from power, but the militant group has never stopped its attacks, citing the foreign military presence as one of the main reasons behind its continued militancy.
Nearly two decades after the invasion, Washington struck a deal with the Taliban in the Qatari capital of Doha early last year.
Under the deal, all foreign troops were expected to leave Afghan soil by May in exchange for the Taliban to halt their attacks on American forces.