(Update 1: updates casualties, adds info)
Kabul, Jul 13 (efe-epa).- At least 11 employees were killed on Monday at the provincial headquarters of Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency in the northern Samangan province after a car bomb attack and a gunfight between security forces and three Taliban insurgents, who were also killed in the clashes.
At last 63 people have been injured in the attack, which began with a high-intensity explosion around 11 am near the provincial office of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) and the municipal office in Aybak city, capital of Samangan.
“The latest information shows 11 people including a woman, all of them employees of the National Directorate of Security, were martyred in today’s attack” Sediq Azizi, the spokesperson for the provincial governor’s office, told EFE.
The wounded, including a woman and two children, have been admitted to hospitals.
“Two of the injured persons were in critical health condition and were sent to neighboring Balkh province for further treatment, and remaining 61 patients are stable” and admitted at the local provincial hospital, Azizi said.
The spokesperson added that the attack had been ended by 1 pm and the situation was “back to normal” in the area.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, stressing that they conducted a “martyr attack” on the Kabul intelligence department for recent “crimes”.
“Heavy clashes underway & so far around 70 NDS workers inside the directorate killed/wounded,” Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid posted on Twitter.
The incident comes just days after the first major attack carried out by the Taliban after a brief three-day ceasefire in May on the occasion of the Eid-al-Fitr festival – marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
Last week, at least three people died and 14 others were wounded in a suicide attack by the insurgents using a truck bomb in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar on Wednesday.
Monday’s attack was the first complex attack by the Taliban – involving both a car bomb and armed militants – in a provincial capital since the truce, although vehicle bombs and IEDs have been used in other incidents in recent days.
The reduction in violence following the ceasefire sought to clear the path towards the commencement of the intra-Afghan talks to usher in peace in the country along the lines of an agreement signed between the US and the Taliban on Feb.29 in the Qatari capital of Doha.
According to the agreement, Washington would pull its troops out of Afghanistan by mid-2021 in exchange for security guarantees from the Taliban.
However, the intra-Afghan talks, originally scheduled to begin on Mar.10, have been delayed by disagreements between the insurgents and the government at Kabul regarding a prisoner swap process, a precondition for starting the talks.
Afghan and Taliban officials have been holding negotiations to complete the exchange of 5,000 Taliban prisoners for 1,000 Afghan security forces captured by the insurgents so that the talks may begin.
So far the government has released more than 4,000 captured Taliban fighters from prisons, while the insurgents have freed around 700 government troops in captivity.
The first meeting of the talks is expected to take place sometime this month in Qatar. EFE-EPA