KABUL/JALALABAD: Taliban attacks in western Afghanistan killed 14 soldiers and policemen on Monday as Kabul residents prepared to bury their loved ones slain in a horrific bombing by the militant Islamic State group that targeted a voter registration centre the day before, killing 57.

Prayer services were held for the Kabul victims as families of those killed in Sunday’s bombing carried the bodies of their kin and dug the graves at a cemetery in the hills above the Afghan capital.

The first of Monday’s near-simultaneous attacks in western Badghis province hit army units in the district of Ab Kamari, killing nine soldiers, said Ghulam Sarwar Haidari, the deputy provincial police chief. Moments later, another large group of insurgents struck police in Qadis district, killing five policemen.

Sharafuddin Majidi, spokesman for the provincial governor, confirmed the casualty tolls. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed the Badghis attacks in a statement to the media.

The attacks came on the heels of Sunday’s suicide blast in Kabul. The staggering casualty toll 57 dead and 119 wounded underscored the struggles the government faces to rein in militant assaults even in large and well-protected urban centres.

The explosion shook the city around 10am, shattering windows miles from the site of the attack, leaving the pavement covered with bodies and blood stains and destroying nearby vehicles.

The bomber targeted civilians who were registering for national identification cards, Kabul police said. The IS group claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement carried by its Aamaq news agency, saying it had targeted Shia “apostates.”

In violence elsewhere in Afghanistan, four policemen were killed and three were wounded on Monday in a Taliban attack in western Farah province, in Bala Buluk district, according to Mohammad Naser Mehri, spokesman for the provincial governor.

Three Taliban fighters were killed and two others were wounded in the gunbattle there that lasted two hours, Mehri said.

In eastern Nangarhar province’s Chaparhar district, militants killed three university students on Sunday, said Attaullah Khogyani, the governor’s spokesman. The three were brothers, he added.The men aged 19, 24 and 27 were taken from their home and killed by IS on Sunday night in Chaparhar district in Nangarhar province, provincial governor spokesman Khogyani said. Nangarhar borders Pakistan and is a stronghold for IS militants.

Two of the brothers recently graduated from medical school and the third was still at university, Khogyani said, adding the boys’ father was also killed by IS last year.

“Their bodies were found in Chaparhar district where they lived,” said the spokesman.

Provincial police spokesman Hazrat Hussain Mashreqiwal confirmed the brutal murders and said an investigation had been launched.

Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2018

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