At least 16 killed in multiple blasts in Jalalabad: Afghan official
Updated 17:17, 06-Mar-2019
CGTN

At least 16 people were killed in a suicide attack early Wednesday on a construction company in eastern Afghanistan, an official said, the latest bloody assault in the war-torn country. 

The hours-long assault in Jalalabad began early Wednesday when at least two blasts were heard, an AFP reporter said, before security forces rushed to the scene in the city, which is the capital of Nangarhar province. 

"Sixteen employees of the company have been killed and nine more injured," provincial spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told AFP. A second official said there had been casualties but could not immediately verify the toll. 

"All five attackers have been killed by security forces," Khogyani added. He said a clearance operation was ongoing with security defusing two suicide vests, one car bomb, and multiple mines planted by the attackers.  

Afghan security forces stand guard near the site of an attack in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, March 6, 2019. /VCG Photo‍

Afghan security forces stand guard near the site of an attack in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, March 6, 2019. /VCG Photo‍

"Armed suicide bombers attacked and managed to enter the building of a private construction company early this morning," said Nangarhar Provincial council member Zabihullah Zmarai. 

"A number of civilian workers of the company have been killed," he added. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Both the Islamic State group and the Taliban are active in Nangarhar province. 

The bombings come as U.S. and Taliban negotiators continue to hold ongoing peace talks in Qatar aimed at ending the nearly 18-year conflict.

Despite a two-day break before the weekend, negotiations continue on "a daily basis right now and progress is being made," U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told journalists Tuesday.

Ambulances are parked while waiting to transfer the wounded near the site of an attack in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, March 6, 2019. / VCG Photo

Ambulances are parked while waiting to transfer the wounded near the site of an attack in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, March 6, 2019. / VCG Photo

"These discussions are ongoing and what we're focusing on are the four interconnected issues that are going to compose any future agreement," Palladino said, listing them as terrorism, troop withdrawal, intra-Afghan dialogue, and ceasefire. 

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during an exchange with high school students in Iowa he hoped sufficient gains would be made for him to be able to take a trip to help advance the negotiations "in a couple weeks."

The continuation of the talks follows a major attack on a joint U.S.-Afghan base in southwestern Afghanistan's Helmand province last week, with at least 23 security forces killed in the hours-long assault on one of the largest military installations in the country.

Afghan victims receive medical treatment at a hospital following the suicide attack in Jalalabad, March 6, 2019. / VCG Photo 

Afghan victims receive medical treatment at a hospital following the suicide attack in Jalalabad, March 6, 2019. / VCG Photo 

Heavy snowfall across large swathes of Afghanistan has led to a sharp reduction in violence this winter, but warmer weather in the country's south will likely spark an increase in bloodshed with the arrival of the spring fighting season.

Analysts have warned that the Taliban are likely to ramp up attacks in the coming months as they seek to maintain momentum on the battlefield and leverage at the negotiating table.

U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly voiced his eagerness to end America's involvement in Afghanistan, where 14,000 U.S. troops are still deployed. 

(Top image: An Afghan police officer stands guard near the site of an attack in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, March 6, 2019. /VCG Photo)

Source(s): AFP