Kabul, Aug 25 (efe-epa).- At least four people were killed and 41 wounded, most of them civilians, after a Taliban suicide bomber detonated a truck loaded with explosives near a military base in northern Afghanistan on Tuesday, according to official sources.
The attack occurred around 8.45am local time in Balkh district, in a province by the same name, the Afghan Defense Ministry said in a statement.
At least two civilians and one member of the Afghan security forces died in the attack, apart from the suicide bomber, and another 41 people – 35 civilians and six security forces members – were injured, the statement added.
The attacker detonated the explosives “near an animal clinic and a commando military base” in an area where civilian houses were also located, Defense Ministry’s deputy spokesperson Fawad Aman explained to EFE.
According to Aman, the number of civilian casualties could increase in the coming hours, as “tens of houses” near the site of the explosion were damaged or destroyed.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid, in a statement, claimed responsibility for the attack targeting the military base, in which “tens of soldiers were killed.”
Balkh district is known to have a large presence of the Taliban rebels, and is among the most unsafe regions in the province.
The bombing comes at a moment of a reduction in violence in the country since a three-day ceasefire was announced and observed by the Afghan security forces and the Taliban during the Eid al-Adha celebrations – one of the most important festivals for Muslims – between July 31 and Aug. 2.
Since then, the Afghan security forces have remained in a defensive posture and only responded when the insurgents have attacked first.
The ongoing reduction in violence has been a part of the efforts to pave the way for the start of the intra-Afghan talks between the rebels and the Afghan government after nearly two decades of war.
The peace talks, as per an agreement between the United States and the Taliban in Doha in late February, have been delayed by more than five months due to a disagreement over a prisoner swap deal that was a precondition for the process.
Earlier this month, the Afghan authorities freed 80 of the 400 prisoners remaining under its custody as part of the prisoner swap deal in which 5,000 Taliban fighters would be released in exchange for 1,000 government personnel. The Taliban had already completed its part of the swap on Jul.30.
Meanwhile, the insurgents have reiterated they will not start the intra-Afghan talks until all the 5,000 prisoners they have demanded are released. EFE-EPA