KABUL: A Taliban suicide bomber killed at least three people and wounded 27 on Wednesday when he set off explosives in a truck near a police headquarters in Afghanistan, officials said.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, confirmed in a statement that the militants had used a large truck, packed with explosives in the attack in the eastern province of Laghman.

Assadullah Dawlatzai, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said among the wounded were 20 children studying in a religious school.

“The explosion was huge,” Dawlatzai said.

The number of casualties may rise as rescuers searched through the ruins of buildings destroyed by the blast.

“We with the rescue teams are still looking for bodies under the rubble, said Obaidullah, a resident of the area.

The attack came during a relative lull in violence after a presidential election last month that saw a surge in attacks by the Taliban, who denounced the vote as a sham.

The early morning attack happened in Alishing district in eastern Laghman province, said interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi.

“Three people including two security forces were killed and 27 were wounded,” he added.

According to Asadullah Daulatzai, spokesman for the provincial governor, the bomb exploded outside a police station and severely damaged a nearby madrassah, or religious school.

“The students were wounded by flying glass,” he said, adding about 20 students were hurt.

Ezatullah, an injured 10-year-old, said the blast was “huge and loud”.

“I was in class with my friends reciting the Quran when we saw a red truck rushing toward us. For a moment everything went dark, and when I woke up I found myself in the hospital,” he said.

Six police officers were wounded in the attack.

The Taliban later claimed responsibility for the blast in a statement sent to media, saying the bomb killed dozens of Afghan security forces.

As the violence worsens, its impact on the children has been disproportionate across war-torn Afghanistan.

According to the UN Children’s Fund the number of attacks against Afghan schools tripled last year compared to 2017.

By the end of 2018, more than 1,000 Afghan schools had been shut due to conflict.

The attack in Laghman comes a day after a helicopter crash in northern Balkh province killed at least seven Afghan military personnel, officials said.

Afghanistan is currently awaiting the results of the first round of presidential voting, which took place last month. Polling was marred by several small-scale attacks claimed by the Taliban.

The United Nations said 85 civilians were killed in election-related Taliban violence.

Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2019