By MUJIB MASHAL and JAWAD SUKHANYAR
FEB. 27, 2016
Afghan mourners carried the coffin of the victim of a suicide attack in Kunar Province on Saturday. Credit Noorullah Shirzada/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
KABUL, Afghanistan — Two separate suicide bombings in Afghanistan on Saturday left at least 26 people dead and nearly 50 injured, officials said, days ahead of expected talks between the government and the Taliban.
The first attack, in Asadabad near the governor’s compound in the eastern province of Kunar, killed at least 14 people and wounded 41 others, said Wahidullah Kalimzai, the province’s governor.
Hours later, a suicide bomber in Kabul set off his explosives at the entrance of the Defense Ministry’s headquarters as soldiers and officials were leaving their offices, killing at least 12 people and wounding eight, a statement from the ministry said.
The Taliban were responsible for the Kabul attack, said a spokesman for the insurgents, Zabihullah Mujahid. No one claimed responsibility yet for the blast in Kunar.
Violence has not abated across Afghanistan this winter, unlike in previous years, and it is expected to intensify in the spring, customarily the start of the insurgent fighting season.
The government of President Ashraf Ghani has been trying to engage the Taliban in negotiations, in the hope of reaching a political resolution to the long war. Officials from Afghanistan, the United States, China and Pakistan, where the insurgency’s leadership is based, recently invited the Taliban to face-to-face talks in Islamabad in March.
But the Taliban have yet to publicly declare whether they will attend, and Afghan officials have been playing down any expectations that the talks would lead to a quick reduction in violence even if the insurgents participate.
The target of the attack in Asadabad appeared to have been a tribal elder named Hajji Khan Jan, who had orchestrated a local uprising against the Taliban in his home district, Dangam. Mr. Jan was among the dead, Mr. Kalimzai, the governor, said.
Niamatullah Karyab contributed reporting from Asadabad, Afghanistan.