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Dozens Killed, Wounded In Series Of Attacks Across Afghanistan

An Afghan firefighter walks through the site of twin blasts near the Afghan parliament in Kabul on January 10.
An Afghan firefighter walks through the site of twin blasts near the Afghan parliament in Kabul on January 10.

Afghan officials say twin bombings near parliament in Kabul killed at least 38 people on January 10, while a powerful blast at a government guesthouse in southern Kandahar left at least seven dead, including five diplomats from the United Arab Emirates.

The initial blast in Kabul struck about 4 p.m. as employees were leaving a compound of government and legislative offices, Interior Ministry spokesman Sadiq Sadiqi said.

Sadiqi told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan that a suicide bomber blew himself up, followed by a car bomb in the same area in "what appears to have been a coordinated attack." The second explosion occurred after security forces had arrived at the scene.

According to some reports, another vehicle with explosives was stopped by security forces near the area.

Health officials say more than 70 people were wounded in the bombings, which were claimed by the Taliban.

Health Ministry spokesman Waheed Majroh warned that the death toll was expected to rise as many of the wounded were in critical condition.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani strongly condemned the Taliban for the "barbaric attack" on civilians.

A Taliban spokesman said the attack targeted a minibus purportedly carrying Afghan intelligence agency staff, but that claim could not be confirmed.

Media reports say most of the victims were civilians, including parliament staff. A female lawmaker from western Herat Province, Rahima Jami, was among the wounded, Tolo news agency reported.

The Interior Ministry said at least four police officers were killed in the attack.

Afghan media reported that a district head of the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency, was among those killed.

Amnesty International condemned the attack, saying it "indicates that the Taliban are pressing ahead with a gruesome campaign of violence that makes no effort to spare civilian lives."

The rights watchdog called for an independent investigation to "secure justice for the victims and their families."

Meanwhile, there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the Kandahar guesthouse attack.

Local government spokesman Samim Khpalwak said the blast hit the heavily guarded compound in the provincial capital, Kandahar, where Governor Hamayoon Azizi was hosting a dinner attended by the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to Kabul and several Afghan officials and Emirati diplomats.

The U.A.E. said on January 11 that five of its diplomats were killed in the bombing. It said the five were carrying out humanitarian, educational, and development work in Afghanistan.

The U.A.E.'s ambassador to Afghanistan and Kandahar Governor Hamayoon Azizi were injured in the explosion. Afghan officials say at least seven people were killed in the blast and 18 were injured.

U.A.E. President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nayyan ordered flags flown at half-staff and three days of official mourning.

No one has claimed responsibility for the Kandahar bombing. The Taliban have denied involvement. Authorities believe it may have been a result of local rivalries.

U.A.E. combat troops had been deployed to Afghanistan -- as part of the NATO-led mission -- after the 2001 U.S.-led invasion that toppled the Taliban.

Also on January 10, at least seven people were killed and six injured by a suicide-bomb attack in volatile Helmand Province in the south of the country, the provincial chief of police said.

The attack reportedly occurred in the house of a local tribal elder in the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault.

Last week, Afghan officials welcomed the Pentagon’s decision to send 300 Marines to Helmand to help train and advise local security forces.

Brigadier General Roger Turner told journalists on January 8 that it will be the first Marine deployment to Helmand since 2014 when the United States announced the end of its combat role in Afghanistan.

Turner said Washington views the Helmand deployment as "a high-risk mission."

U.S. and NATO forces formally ended their combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, but thousands of troops remain in the country, where they train and assist Afghan forces and carry out counterterrorism operations against groups like Islamic State and Al-Qaeda.

With reporting by AP, dpa, AFP, Reuters, and BBC

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