Al-Jazeera correspondent quoted an Afghan government source as saying that dead and wounded people were killed in an explosion targeting a bus in the southern province of Kandahar, at a time when the Taliban movement took control of the Sherkhan border crossing with Tajikistan.
A spokesman for the Security Directorate in Kandahar, Jamal Nasir Barikzai, said that “5 civilians were killed and 18 others, including women and children, were wounded today, Wednesday, as a result of the explosion of an explosive device planted on the side of the road in Maifand district.”
Barikzai said in a press statement that the explosion occurred while a car carrying civilians was passing. No one has claimed responsibility for the blast.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied the group’s responsibility for the attack on the hospital in Kunar.
In the north of the country, 134 Afghan soldiers took refuge in Tajikistan to escape an attack by the Taliban on a border crossing in Kunduz province.
The movement’s fighters took control of the town of Sherkhan Bandar before they took control of the border crossing linking Afghanistan with the countries of Central Asia.
The border guards of Tajikistan said in a statement issued late on Tuesday evening that they allowed about 134 Afghan security personnel to enter the country from Sherkhan Bandar, which is about 50 kilometers from the city of Kunduz.
Afghan officials said Taliban militants seized ammunition and armored vehicles in the town after authorities handed them over to the fighters.
Losing the commercial town would be a slap in the face for the US-backed Afghan government, which is trying to halt the advance of Taliban forces in various parts of the country.
Fighting between Afghan security forces and Taliban militants has escalated in recent weeks, with the militants seizing more territory as the last US-led international forces prepare to leave the country after nearly two decades of fighting.
In a previous interview with Al-Jazeera, the spokesman for the Afghan Taliban’s political office, Muhammad Naim, said that “the current military escalation was initiated by the government forces, not the movement.”
He added, “Perhaps you will remember two weeks ago, the so-called Minister of Interior in Kabul said that they escalated their operations and bombarded the Mujahideen sites and civilian villages.”
The US withdrawal continues
Meanwhile, the US Central Command announced that it had handed over 6 military facilities to the Afghan forces, and that it had completed withdrawing half of its soldiers and military equipment from Afghanistan.
In turn, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said, “Washington urges all Afghan parties to engage meaningfully in negotiations to reach a political settlement.”
Price added in a telephone press briefing that Washington continues to support the ongoing diplomatic process in the Qatari capital to reach a political settlement to the conflict.
Price stressed that the Taliban movement is responsible for much of the violence in Afghanistan in recent days and weeks, stressing that the world will not accept a government in Afghanistan based on violence, and any government in the future must respect human rights, as he put it.