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Islamic State Local Commander 'Killed In Afghan Air Strikes'

FILE: Afghan National Army (ANA) troops keep watch at a check point in Aqcha district of Jawzjan province.

A local commander of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group has been killed by Afghan security forces in the northern province of Jawzjan, Afghan officials say.

Provincial police chief Faqeer Mohammad Jawzjani said on April 7 that the IS commander, Qari Hekmat, was killed by Afghan forces’ air strikes on April 5.

The official told RFE/RL that Hekmat was killed along with his bodyguard and two other militants in Jawzjan’s Darzab district.

Jawzjani said the government forces continue a military operation to clear out the area from IS militants.

Afghan officials earlier said that IS militants in Jawzjan appointed Mawlawi Habib-ur-Rehman, an IS fighter from the northern province of Balkh, as the extremist group’s new local commander.

IS militants have a presence in several Afghan districts, mostly in the country’s east near the Pakistani border, but also in some northern provinces, like Jawzjan and Kunduz.

IS doesn’t fully control any Afghan district, and it fights both the Afghan government forces and the Taliban for territorial control.

IS has claimed responsibility for several deadly suicide attacks in the capital, Kabul, and other cities, including Herat and Jalalabad.

Schools To Reopen In Afghan District After Deal Reached With Taliban

FILE: A girls school in Afghanistan's Logar province.

Dozens of public schools that were shut down by the Taliban in an area under its control south of Kabul are set to reopen after a deal was reached with the militant group, an Afghan official says.

Salim Saleh, a spokesman for the provincial governor of Logar, said that classes “are expected to resume in the afternoon on April 7 or April 8” in at least 30 schools in the province’s Charkh district after a week-long interruption.

The Taliban closed the schools on March 31 after several militants and one of their commanders were killed in a night raid by government forces.

Afghan media earlier reported that Mualvi Mohammad, a Taliban commander, was killed in the Afghan army operation in the area late on March 30.

Saleh told RFE/RL on April 7 that the deal to reopen the school was reached after negotiations between the Taliban and tribal elders in the area.

The official had previously said that authorities were in contact with influential tribal elders and religious scholars in Charkh in an attempt to secure the schools’ reopening.

Saleh said the Taliban’s move left some 12,000 students out of school in Charkh, which is about 60 kilometers south of the Afghan capital.

With reporting by tolonews.com and pajwok.com

Afghan Taliban Closes 30 Schools After Militant Commander Killed

FILE: Girls students in a school in Afghanistan's Logar province

The Taliban has closed at least 30 schools in an area under its control south of Kabul after a local militant commander was killed by government forces, Afghan officials say.

Salim Saleh, a spokesman for Logar Province's governor, said on April 6 that the Taliban closed the schools in the province's Charkh district after several militants and one of their commanders were killed in a night raid by government forces earlier this week.

Afghan media earlier reported that Mualvi Mohammad, a Taliban commander, was killed in the Afghan National Army operation in the area late on March 30.

Saleh said the Taliban move had left some 12,000 students out of school in Charkh, which is about 60 kilometers south of the Afghan capital.

Saleh said that the authorities were in contact with influential tribal elders and religious scholars in the area in an attempt to secure the schools' reopening in the coming days.

Hasibullah Stanekzai, the head of the Logar Provincial Council, said that the militants had warned Charkh elders to avoid meeting government officials to discuss reopening schools.

The schools have been closed since March 31.

Based on reporting by Tolo News and Pajhwok

Six Afghan Soldiers Wounded In Kabul Bomb Attack

According to a Kabul police spokesperson, the blast was caused by a roadside bomb.

KABUL -- Six Afghan soldiers have been slightly wounded in a bomb attack in the capital, the Defense Ministry says.

The ministry said in a statement that two magnetic bombs placed on a power transmission tower exploded in Kabul on April 4 when members of the Afghan National Army (ANA) were passing by.

Earlier, officials at the Ministry of Public Health said three people had been transferred to hospital for treatment following the attack, which took place near a Defense Ministry building.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, which comes as the Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban, the Islamic State, and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

On March 21, a suicide attack outside a Shi'ite mosque in Kabul killed at least 29 people, as people in the capital celebrated the new year holiday Norouz.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for that attack.

With reporting by Khaama Press

More Than 50 Afghan Schoolgirls Hospitalized For Suspected Poisoning

An Afghan school girl receives medical treatment at a local hospital after being admitted for symptoms of poisoning. (illustrative photo from a previous Afghan poisoning incident in May 2017), in Herat, September 3, 2015

Dozens of schoolgirls have been sickened at a high school in the southern Afghan province of Helmand in what officials suspect is a case of group poisoning.

Dawood Shah Safari, head of the provincial education department, told RFE/RL that a total of 52 girls were transferred on April 2 to a hospital in Helmand Province’s capital, Lashkar Gah.

Dr. Nisar Ahmad Barak said the girls were admitted at his hospital with headaches and vomiting, adding that they were now in stable condition and receiving treatment.

It was not clear what type of poisoning may have been involved in the incident.

The girls were said to be from 10th and 11th grade at Lashkar Gah's Central Girls School.

Police said officers and experts had been dispatched to the area to investigate the incident.

Most of Helmand Province is under the control of the Taliban who oppose the education of girls.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

With reporting by AP and Pajhwok

High-Level Conference On Afghanistan Opens In Uzbekistan

A general view of a multilateral meeting conference aiming to lay the ground for direct talks between Afghan government and the Taliban, in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on March 27.

Uzbekistan on March 27 is hosting a multilateral meeting on Afghanistan aiming to lay the ground for direct talks between Kabul and the Taliban.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, and EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini are taking part in the talks in Tashkent.

The foreign ministers of Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Russia and Turkey are due to give speeches on March 27, while the United States is to be represented by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon.

The parties at the conference were expected to sign a declaration on Afghanistan before the end of the conference (EDS; arounf 1500 Prague time).

The Taliban are staying away from the event held in Tashkent.

Representatives of both Washington and NATO have in the past raised concerns that Moscow is supplying military aid to the militant group that ruled over much of Afghanistan from 1996 until it was toppled by a US-led invasion in 2001.

Moscow has rejected the claims.


Based on reporting by AFP and TASS

Afghanistan Peace Conference Set To Convene In Tashkent

Representatives from more than 20 countries are expected to take part in the event in Uzbekistan.

An international conference on Afghanistan is set to convene in Uzbekistan’s capital, Tashkent, on March 26.

Representatives from more than 20 countries are expected to take part in the event in Uzbekistan, including from the United States, the European Union, Pakistan, Iran, China, Russia, and the five Central Asian nations.

The conference will discuss the Afghan peace process, as well as counterterrorism, counternarcotics, and regional cooperation.

The Tashkent conference comes on the heels of the so-called Kabul Process event held in the Afghan capital on February 28 in which Afghan President Ashraf Ghani proposed peace talks with the Taliban, without preconditions.

U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon will attend the Tashkent conference on Afghanistan on March 26 and is also scheduled to meet with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev and Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulaziz Kamilov during his three-day trip.

The State Department has said the Tashkent conference "will build on progress made at the February 28 Kabul Process Conference in a continued demonstration of international support for a peaceful political settlement in Afghanistan."

Afghanistan Wins Cricket World Cup Qualifying Tournament

Ireland batsman Gary Wilson, right, plays a shot during their Cricket World Cup qualifier match against Afghanistan at Harare Sports Club on March 23.

Afghanistan captured a seven-wicket victory over the West Indies to win the cricket World Cup qualifying tournament in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Afghanistan on March 25 bowled out the West Indies for 204 in 46.5 overs and then reached its target score with just under 10 overs to spare.

Afghanistan and West Indies both secured their places in the 2019 World Cup by finishing atop the 10-team qualifying tournament.

The World Cup, the biggest event in the sport, will be held in England and Wales from May 30 to July 14, 2019.

Ten teams will participate in the 12th edition of the event. England is an automatic qualifier, and Australia, South Africa, India, New Zealand, Sir Lanka, Bangladesh, and Pakistan have also earned spots.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters

Bomb Blast Hits Western Afghan City

The Islamic State extremist group claimed responsibility for the attack on a Shi'ite mosque in the western city of Herat on March 25.

Afghan police say two suicide bombers struck a Shi'ite mosque in the western city of Herat, killing at least one person and wounding seven others.

Police spokesman Abdul Ahad Walizada said the suicide bombers tried to enter the Nabi Akram Mosque on March 25, but one was shot dead by security guards and the other blew himself up before reaching the hall where worshippers were praying.

The Islamic State extremist group claimed responsibility for the attack.

The area around the mosque was cordoned off by police and ambulances were seen rushing victims to hospitals in the city.

The Sunni extremists have frequently targeted Afghanistan’s Shi'ite minority, which they view as apostates.

The group claimed responsibility for a suicide attack outside a Shi'ite mosque in Kabul on March 21 that killed 33 people and wounded dozens as people in the capital celebrated Norouz, the Persian new year holiday.

According to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, 161 people were killed and 257 others were wounded in 2017 in targeted sectarian attacks against Shi'ite places of worship or worshippers.

Based on reporting by Reuters and Tolo News

Suicide Car Bomber Kills 13 At Afghan Wrestling Match

Men carry a wounded man onto a stretcher outside a hospital following a car bomb in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province on March 23.

A car bomb has exploded at the entrance of a sports stadium in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Afghanistan's southwestern province of Helmand, killing at least 13 people and injuring dozens as they were leaving a wrestling match.

Aminullah Abed, the head of the province's public health department, said at least 40 were injured -- with six in critical condition. He said the bodies of many of those who were killed had been burnt beyond recognition.

Omar Zawak, a spokesman for Helmand's provincial governor, told RFE/RL that the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber who drove an explosives-laden car into a crowd of people as they were passing through the entrance gate of the sports facility on March 23.

Zawak said at least 14 people were killed and 45 were injured.

Provincial police chief Abdul Ghafar Safi said the target of the attack was civilians. He said no high-ranking officials were present or hurt at the stadium.

The attack occurred after Afghan New Year celebrations were winding down.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

With reporting by AFP and AP

German Lawmakers Approve Troop Increase For Afghanistan

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen

The German parliament has approved plans to extend the country's military mission in Afghanistan.

A majority of lawmakers voted to approve a bill raising the maximum number of German troops deployed in Afghanistan as part of NATO’s Resolute Support mission by one-third to 1,300.

The decision comes as the Western-backed government in Kabul is struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

Earlier this month, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said that the German troop increase should be matched with accelerated reforms by the Afghan government.

She also warned that the military’s mission in Afghanistan would likely extend for some time, saying, "We need patience and a long breath, without question."

Germany has contributed to NATO missions in Afghanistan for the past 17 years.

The German military has its headquarters in Afghanistan in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif and a large base near Kunduz.

Based on reporting by dpa

Asylum Seeker Claiming Afghan Origin Sentenced For Rape, Murder In Germany

The case triggered protests in Germany against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s immigration policies.

An asylum seeker who claims to be from Afghanistan was sentenced by a German court on March 22 to life in prison for the rape and murder of a woman.

Hussein Khavari, who arrived in Germany without identification in 2015, had admitted to attacking 19-year-old Maria Ladenburger in the southwestern city of Freiburg in October 2016.

Prosecutors said Khavari pushed the woman off her bicycle, then bit, choked, and raped her. She was left alive on the bank of a river, where she subsequently drowned.

Khavari was arrested seven weeks later after a manhunt.

Khavari had previously received a 10-year sentence for attempted murder in Greece, only to be freed in 2015 because of overcrowded prisons.

German authorities have not been able to confirm Khavari’s age and nation of origin. He originally claimed to be a teenager, but after examining dental records and X-rays, experts said they believe him to be 22 to 29 years old.

The case triggered protests in Germany against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s immigration policies.

Under German law, a life sentence means 15 years in prison with no chance of parole and the possibility of "security detention" after release.

Based on reporting by AFP and the BBC

Women From Afghanistan, Kosovo, Kazakhstan Among 2018 Courage Award Honorees

Kazakh lawyer Aiman Omarova is among those who who has been honored with an International Women of Courage Award. (file photo)

Ten women from countries including Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, and Kosovo are being honored with the U.S. State Department's International Women of Courage Award (IWOC) for 2018.

Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan will host the annual IWOC ceremony on March 23. First Lady Melania Trump is to deliver remarks at the ceremony.

The award is presented annually to women from around the world who have shown leadership, courage, resourcefulness, and willingness to sacrifice for others, especially in promoting women's rights.

The 2018 awardees include:

Roya Sadat of Afghanistan is a well-known rights defender who uses television and cinema to tell stories of Afghan women and girls despite enormous personal risks linked to cultural, bureaucratic, and financial obstacles.

Aiman Omarova of Kazakhstan is a prominent lawyer who specializes in sexual abuse crimes committed against women and children, and works with political and rights detainees.

Feride Rushiti of Kosovo is the founder and executive director of the Kosovo Center for the Rehabilitation of Torture Victims, whose activism led to a landmark government ruling on awarding pensions to victims of Kosovo wartime sexual violence.

The other seven are Aura Elena Farfan of Guatemala, Julissa Villlanueva of Honduras, Aliyah Khalaf Saleh of Iraq, Maria Elena Berini of Italy, L'Malouma Said of Mauritania, Godelive Mukasarasi of Rwanda, and Sirikan Charoensiri of Thailand.

CORRECTION: This article has been amended to reflect the fact that the 10 women in question are awardees, not finalists.

Top U.S. Military Officer Visits Afghanistan To Review Campaign

U.S. General Joseph Dunford said he wanted to understand the goals for the coming months so the U.S.-led coalition can develop ways to measure progress in the fight.

U.S. General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has visited Afghanistan to evaluate the military campaign there.

The visit by Dunford, the top U.S. military officer, follows a two-day stop in the country by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis last week amid a renewed effort to get the Taliban militants to open talks with the Afghan government.

Bolstering that effort is an increased U.S. military campaign aimed at ensuring Afghan troops make progress against the Taliban and other insurgents in the fighting season this spring.

Dunford said on March 19 he wanted to understand the goals for the coming months so the U.S.-led coalition can develop ways to measure progress in the fight.

Dunford is traveling with a large team, including senior officials who specialize in intelligence, strategy, and logistics.

With reporting by AP and Tolo News

Three Killed In Blast Outside Hekmatyar Rally In Afghanistan

Afghan policemen inspect the scene after a deadly blast in Jalalabad on March 19.

Three people were killed when a motorcycle bomb exploded in eastern Afghanistan on March 19 outside a rally being held by a veteran warlord who made peace with the government last year, officials said.

At least eight more people were wounded in the explosion.

The former commander, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, was not hurt in the blast that came 10 minutes after his rally ended, in the city of Jalalabad, as people were leaving the site, Attahullah Khogyani, spokesman for the provincial governor told the media.

Hekmatyar, who served as prime minister for a period during Afghanistan's civil war in the 1990s, was in recent years allied with the Taliban.

He returned to Kabul last year under a peace deal with the government, as head of his Hizb-i-Islami party.

No group has claimed responsibility for the blast.

Nangarhar province, of which Jalalabad is capital, has in recent years become a hotbed of militants affiliated to both Islamic State and the Taliban.

The attack in Jalalabad came after at least eight people were killed in separate incidents in the capital, Kabul, and southeastern Ghazni province on March 18.

Based on reporting by Reuters and dpa

Suicide Car-Bomb Attack Kills At Least Three In Kabul

Afghan security forces surrounded the site of a suicide bombing attack in Kabul on March 17.

Afghan officials say at least three people have been killed and two others wounded in a suicide car-bomb attack that apparently targeted a foreign security company in the capital, Kabul.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast that hit the Despechari area in eastern Kabul in the morning on March 17.

Deputy Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said the attacker "detonated himself before reaching the target."

The ministry said all those killed and wounded in the attack were civilians, with no casualties among the contractors.

Eyewitnesses confirmed that the victims were passersby and local workers.

“All those killed were barbers or shoeshine men. I was horrified when I saw their bodies," eyewitness Mohammad Osman told Reuters. The explosion damaged nearby buildings, he added.

The latest attack comes amid growing pressure on the Taliban to take up the Afghan government's offer of peace talks to end the 16-year conflict.

Kabul has recently seen a spate of militant attacks claimed by the Taliban and Islamic State.

Earlier this week, top U.S. commander in Afghanistan John Nicholson said security in Kabul would be "the main effort" for international powers helping Afghan defense and security forces.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP

At Least 15 Afghan Security Personnel Killed In Western Province

FILE: Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers inspect a vehicle which was used in an attack in Farah.

At least 15 Afghan security personnel have been killed in fighting with Taliban militants in the western province of Farah, a provincial official said.

Farid Bakhtawar, head of the provincial council, said seven army commandos and eight police were killed in the Bala Buluk district after a predawn attack by the Taliban.

Bakhtawar said three other security personnel are missing and more than 30 militants were killed in the battle that ended after air strikes were called in.

Defense Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said only four members of the Afghan special forces had been killed and a number wounded.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujhaid claimed responsibility for the attack.

Farah, located along the border with Iran, has been the scene of intense Taliban attacks in recent weeks.

The Kabul government has deployed hundreds of additional troops to the province to thwart the Taliban's offensive.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AP

Ten Suspected Insurgents Killed In Afghanistan's Helmand

FILE: Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers during a training in Helmand province.

At least 10 suspected insurgents were killed and 13 wounded in an operation by Afghan security forces in the southern province of Helmand, authorities say.

Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS) said in a statement on March 10 that the operation was conducted in the Khoshkaba area of Helmand's capital, Lashkar Gah.

Eight other suspects were arrested, the NDS said.

During the operation, security forces seized weapons and explosive materials, including suicide vests and a car bomb, NDS said in the statement.

Suspected insurgent hideouts were also destroyed in the operation.

Afghan security forces also seized caches of weapons in separate operations in southeastern Paktika Province.

No further details were provided about the operations.

Meanwhile, the death toll in a March 9 Kabul suicide bombing claimed by Islamic State has risen to 10, the Afghan Health Ministry said on March 10.

Twenty-two people were injured in the attack in the predominantly Shi'ite neighborhood of Dasht-e Barchi.

One police officer was among the dead.

With reporting by dpa and tolonews.com

Taliban Attacks Remote Afghan Army Outpost, Killing 10

FILE: Afghan security forces during the military operation in Takhar province.

The Taliban launched a deadly assault on an army outpost in a remote region of Afghanistan's northern Takhar Province, killing 10 local police officers and wounding nine, a local official said on March 9.

Provincial police spokesman Khali Aseir said that a large number of Taliban fighters assaulted the outpost overnight.

Aseir said the 10 members of the local police were ambushed and killed while on their way to the outpost to assist the Afghan soldiers in the remote district of Khwaja Ghar.

There were no casualties among the soldiers.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the assault and the killing of the police officers. He claimed the Taliban had inflicted a far higher number of casualties, but the insurgents often exaggerate their claims.

The report couldn't be independently confirmed because of the area's remoteness.

With reporting by AP

Afghan Man Admits Vienna Stabbings, Cites 'Bad Mood'

FILE: A police officer walks in front of the Austrian chancellery in Vienna.

Austrian authorities say a 23-year-old Afghan man has admitted stabbing and severely injuring four people in Vienna because he was "upset about his life’s situation."

Police said on March 8 that the suspect, whose name was not made public, acknowledged the stabbings of a 20-year-old Afghan male acquaintance and three members of a separate family.

The victims' names were also not released.

The suspect was detained shortly after the stabbing of the 20-year-old late on March 7 in the Austrian capital, police said.

Earlier in the evening at about 7:45 p.m. local time, he allegedly attacked three members of a family -- the 67-year-old father, the 56-year-old mother, and their 17-year-old daughter -- on the large shopping street of Praterstrasse in the center of Vienna.

Police said the father was in critical condition, while his wife and daughter remained hospitalized in stable condition. The injured Afghan man was also reported to be stable.

Authorities said the motive for the attack on the family was unclear. But they said the suspect told police he knew the Afghan man, saying he was targeted because "he holds him responsible for his previous drug addiction."

The suspect also said he was in a "bad, aggressive mood and upset about his life's situation" when he committed the attacks, police reported.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP

Hundreds Of Women March In Kabul For International Women's Day

Afghan Chief Executive, Abdullah Abdullah (C) prays during an event marking International Women's Day, in Kabul on March 8

Hundreds of women marched in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on March 8 to mark International Women's Day and to remind authorities that much remains to be done to give Afghan women a voice, ensure their education, and protect them from increasing violence.

The head of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, Sima Samar, addressed women in Afghanistan's security forces.

"Your safety represents the safety of all Afghan women," she said, reminding women in uniform to report any abuse by superiors to the rights commission.

Samar said no one has the right to comment on their physical appearance or to speak to them disrespectfully.

The overall situation for Afghan women has gradually improved in the last decade, especially in the major urban areas, but those living in rural parts of the country still face major discrimination and violence.

Human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, have voiced concern at women's rights in Afghanistan.

With reporting by AP

German Cabinet Approves Troop Increase For Afghanistan

FILE: German soldiers walk through an Afghan military base during fighting between Taliban militants and Afghan security forces in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz in October 2015.

The German government on March 7 approved plans to extend the country's overseas military missions, including in Afghanistan.

The defense bill, which must still be approved by parliament, would raise the maximum number of German troops deployed in Afghanistan as part of NATO’s Resolute Support mission by one-third to 1,300.

The decision comes as the Western-backed government in Kabul is struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen told broadcaster ARD that the move should be matched with accelerated reforms by the Afghan government.

She also warned that the military’s mission in Afghanistan would likely extend for some time, saying, "We need patience and a long breath, without question."

Germany has contributed to NATO missions in Afghanistan for the past 17 years.

The German military has its headquarters in Afghanistan in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif and a large base near Kunduz.

Von der Leyen described the German military's contribution to NATO's missions in Afghanistan as a "story of progress on the one side, but of course also setbacks," arguing that the educational opportunities for children, the status of women, health care, and infrastructure in the war-torn country had improved over the years.

But she also said that the Afghan Army was still struggling to keep the country safe.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's government also agreed on April 7 to extend the German military's missions in Iraq, Mali, South Sudan, and the NATO-led Sea Guardian operation in the Mediterranean Sea.

The cabinet meeting was the last before the new coalition government takes over.

Based on reporting by AP, Reuters, and DW

Afghan Religious Official Killed By Suicide Bomber

Afghan security forces inspect the site of the suicide attack in Jalalabad on March 7.

A suicide bomber has killed two people in eastern Afghanistan, including the local head of the Ministry of Haj and Religious Affairs.

The extremist group Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the March 7 bombing in Nangarhar Province’s capital, Jalalabad, through its Amaq news agency.

Attahullah Khogyani, a spokesman for Nangarhar Province’s governor, said 10 people were also wounded in the blast.

Khogyani said the attacker was on foot and apparently targeted the slain local religious affairs official, Abdul Zahir Haqqani.

"He was coming off a bridge when the attacker approached him and blew himself up close to his car," he added.

Both the Taliban and rival militants from a branch of the so-called Islamic State are active in Nangarhar Province, which borders Pakistan, and regularly attack local officials and security forces.

On March 6, at least two people were killed and two others were injured when a bomb attached to a fuel truck exploded in the province, officials said.

No group claimed responsibility for that attack.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and tolonews.com

At Least 31 Suspected Militants Killed In Afghanistan, Army Says

At least two people were killed when a bomb attached to a fuel truck exploded in eastern Nangarhar Province.

At least 31 suspected insurgents, including Islamic State militants, were killed over the past 24 hours in ground and air strikes launched by the Afghan Army in different parts of the country, the Defense Ministry said on March 6.

Seventeen suspected militants were wounded and two were arrested, the ministry said in a statement. At least 13 air strikes were carried out across the country to target suspected insurgent hideouts and weapons caches, the statement said.

Operations were conducted in Nangarhar, Laghman, Kunar, Ghazni, Paktika, Kandahar, Zabul, Farah, Badghis, Kunduz, Takhar, Faryab, Nimroz, and Helmand provinces.

Separately, at least two people were killed March 6 when a bomb attached to a fuel truck exploded in eastern Nangarhar Province, a local official said.

Attahullah Khogyani, spokesman for the provincial governor, says the explosion also wounded three people.

He says it took place in the province's Behsud district, along a main highway between the provincial capital of Jalalabad and the Torkham border crossing with Pakistan.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, but both the Taliban and IS militants are active in the province and have stepped up their attacks against Afghan security forces.

Based on reporting by tolonews.com and AP

One Afghan Killed, 22 Wounded In Kabul Bombing Targeting Australians

The site of a suicide bomb attack in Kabul on March 2

A suicide bomb attack in an eastern district of Kabul on March 2 that killed a 6-year-old girl and wounded 22 more Afghans was targeting Australian Embassy vehicles, Afghan and Australian officials said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said that the blast was a car bombing targeting "a convoy of foreigners" in the Qabel Bay district of the Afghan capital.

The Australian Foreign Ministry on the Australian Embassy website late on March 2 said the bombing apparently targeted Australians as it was detonated "near Australian Embassy vehicles while they were traveling in Kabul."

The ministry said no Australians were injured. NATO's Resolute Support mission also issued a statement saying no NATO personnel were injured.

"The target was not a NATO convoy," said NATO mission spokesman Tom Gresback.

The area is home to a military training center, the government’s customs offices, and some guesthouses.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the bombing.

The attack came two days after President Ashraf Ghani offered to start peace talks with the Taliban and just over a month after an explosives-packed ambulance was detonated in the city center, killing around 100 people.

The Taliban claimed the ambulance attack, as well as an attack a week earlier in which militants stormed a luxury hotel in Kabul, killing 22 people, including 14 foreigners.

With reporting by dpa, AFP, AP, and Reuters

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