KABUL: At least 27 policemen were killed on Thursday and 40 others wounded after a Taliban-ordered bomb attack ripped through a convoy of buses transporting police cadets in Kabul, the interior ministry said.
The attack comes little over a week after 14 Nepali security guards who were heading to work at the Canadian embassy were killed in a massive blast that left their yellow minibus spattered with blood.
“We are still investigating the precise nature of the blast, whether it was suicide attack, car bomb or whatever – we do not know at the moment,” a senior interior ministry official said.
He added the attack occurred at around 11.00 am (0630 GMT) as the buses were transporting cadets in a western neighborhood on the city’s outskirts.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, claiming “many were killed and wounded”.
An AFP reporter at the scene said the area had been cordoned off by security officials but it appeared that five green police cadet buses had sustained damage, as well as a military Humvee vehicle assigned to escort them.
The resurgent Taliban have been fighting against the Western-backed Kabul government since they were ousted from power by a US-led invasion in late 2001.
They have been gaining ground all around the country, even as their rival Islamic State also makes inroads into Afghanistan, particularly in the east, where they are challenging the Taliban on their own turf.
The US and NATO combat mission in Afghanistan ended in December 2014. US forces have been in an advisory role since then, while carrying out counterterrorism missions against the IS group and remnants of Al-Qaeda.
US forces are now only authorized to hit Taliban targets for defensive reasons, or to protect Afghan soldiers.
But recent attacks have spurred US troops to work more closely with local fighters in striking the Taliban, who have demanded the departure of all foreign forces from the country as a pre-requisite to negotiations with the government.
The Taliban regularly attack the police as part of their campaign, and a recent AFP investigation found that the Taliban have used child sex slaves in a string of deadly insider attacks against security officials.
Afghanistan’s president Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday ordered an investigation into the institutionalised abuse.
Efforts to bring the war to a close via peace talks meanwhile appear indefinitely stalled after the US killing of former Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a drone attack inside Pakistan last month.
It is not yet clear whether his successor Haibatullah Akhundzada will emulate his former boss in shunning dialogue with the Afghan government until the complete departure of foreign forces.