The death toll from a suicide bombing targeting a security forces convoy outside Kabul early Tuesday jumped to 12, officials said, with eight civilians killed in the latest Taliban-claimed attack near the Afghan capital.
The car bomb follows a wave of deadly violence against Afghan forces across a year in which insurgents have inflicted record-high casualties on security personnel in the war-torn country.
“Twelve people including four members of the security forces were killed,” ministry of interior deputy spokesman Nasrat Rahimi told AFP.
Kabul police confirmed the casualties, adding that women and children were among the dead.
The blast took place in Paghman district west of Kabul as the convoy was returning from an overnight operation, interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish told AFP.
The ministry of interior and a seperate security official requesting anonymity confirmed the assailant had used a car bomb to target the convoy.
Afghan security forces, beset by killings and desertions, have been struggling to beat back insurgents from Islamic State as well as the Taliban since US-led NATO mostly left them on their own three years ago.
In November President Ashraf Ghani said nearly 30,000 Afghan soldiers and police officers have been killed since 2015 — a figure far higher than anything previously acknowledged.
Earlier this month, Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie — who has been nominated to lead the US military’s Central Command — said the death rate among Afghan forces will no longer be sustainable unless urgent measures are taken to address recruiting and training issues.
The early morning attack in Kabul came just hours after an overnight assault on a checkpoint in Arghistan district of southern Kandahar province by Taliban fighters killed at least eight Afghan police officers according to the provincial media office.
“The fighting lasted several hours, 11 Taliban were also killed,” the office added.
The uptick in violence comes as Washington continues to press for a negotiated end to the 17-year conflict.
US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad — who is currently canvassing the region to build support for potential peace talks — expressed hopes that a deal to end the war could be struck before the Afghan presidential election scheduled for April.
At an international conference on Afghanistan in Geneva last month, Ghani also said a 12-person Afghan negotiating team has been prepared for peace talks.
But the Taliban, who have previously insisted they will only speak with US officials, rejected Ghani’s overtures, calling the government in Kabul “impotent” and a “waste of time”.