Attack in Kabul kills 18; al-Qaida leader killed in Ghazni

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An Afghan receives treatment at hospital after suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. The death toll from the suicide attack Saturday in Afghanistan’s capital has risen that includes schoolchildren, the interior ministry said.. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The death toll from the suicide attack Saturday in Afghanistan’s capital has risen to at least 18 killed and 57 people wounded, including students, the interior ministry said.

Afghan security officials separately announced on Saturday that a senior al-Qaida commander had been killed in a recent operation in the country’s east.

Saturday’s explosion in the capital struck outside an education center in a heavily Shiite neighborhood of western Kabul, Dasht-e-Barchi.

Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian says that the attacker was trying to enter the center when he was stopped by security guards.

According to Arian, the casualty toll may rise further as family members of victims of the suicide bombing are still searching the several different hospitals where the wounded have been taken.

No group claimed immediate responsibility for the bombing. The Taliban rejected any connection with the attack.

An Islamic State affiliate claimed responsibility for a similar suicide attack at an education center in August 2018, in which 34 students were killed. Within Afghanistan, IS has launched large-scale attacks on minority Shiites, Sikhs and Hindus, whom it views as apostates.

Hundreds of Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan fled the country in September after a gunman loyal to the militant group killed 25 members of the shrinking community in an attack on their share a place of worship in Kabul.

Meanwhile, the Afghan intelligence service said in a tweet that special forces killed al-Qaida’s number two commander for the Indian sub-continent, Abu Muhsin al-Masri, in a recent operation in eastern Ghazni. The National Directorate of Security did not immediately share more details about the operation.

Al-Masri was listed among the most wanted terrorists by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2018.

The U.S. signed a peace deal with the Taliban in February, opening up a path toward withdrawing American troops from the conflict. U.S. officials said the deal also aimed refocus security efforts on fighting the Islamic State, which is a rival of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

There has been an upsurge in violence between Taliban and Afghan forces in the country recently, even as representatives from the two warring sides begin their own peace talks in Doha to end the decades-long war in Afghanistan.

Earlier Saturday a roadside bomb killed nine people in eastern Afghanistan after it struck a minivan full of civilians, a local official said.

Ghazni province police spokesman Ahmad Khan Sirat said that a second roadside bomb killed two policemen, after it struck their vehicle that was making its way to the victims of the first explosion.

Sirat added that the bombings had wounded several others, and that the attacks were under investigation.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks. The provincial police spokesman claimed the Taliban had placed the bomb.

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