Taliban truck bomb, string of attacks kills 17, injures dozens more

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The Taliban ratcheted up attacks against Afghanistan government officials on Tuesday, with a suicide bomber killing three people while a string of other attacks left 14 dead and dozens more injured.

The violence again threatens a prospective peace agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban, which has been stalled since March but showed signs of regaining momentum in the coming months.

AFGHANISTAN BOMB ATTACKS LEAVE 4 DEAD, 13 WOUNDED

The suicide bomber ambushed a truck in northern Balkh province, killing two Afghan commandos and a civilian, according to Munir Ahmad Farhad, the spokesman for the provincial governor.

“Most of the wounded civilians are women and children,” said Hanif Rezaie, the spokesman for the Afghan army corps in the north, adding that initial military reports indicated that at least 35 civilians were wounded in the explosion, which also destroyed or damaged dozens of nearby civilian homes.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the Balkh attack in a tweet, claiming that “tens" of military personnel were killed. The Taliban often exaggerate the results of its attacks.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani strongly condemned the bombing in Balkh and said the Taliban has increased attacks on major Afghan cities despite the February agreement. “The Taliban’s insistence on continuing war and violence is challenging peace opportunities,” he said in a statement.

Ghani's statement said the Taliban must stop fighting and killing Afghans, accept a cease-fire and start direct talks with the Afghan government. “By committing crimes and violence, they can achieve nothing but hatred and disgust of the people,” he said.

Meanwhile, gunfire erupted in a separate instance in Balkh in what investigators believe was a targeted attack on former warlord Abdul Raouf and his family.

Five people were killed, including Raouf, two sons ages 10 and 11, and two other men in a vehicle in the Charkent district, said Adil Shah Adil, spokesman for the provincial police chief.

Also on Tuesday, an attack on a checkpoint of pro-government forces in western Ghor province killed eight troops and wounded five, said Arif Aber, spokesman for the provincial governor. The attack in Shahrak district set off a five-hour gun battle.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for that attack, but authorities blamed the Taliban.

In the capital of Kabul, a roadside bombing killed a police officer while a policewoman and her driver were wounded when unknown attackers opened fire on them, said Ferdaws Faramarz, spokesman for the Kabul police chief.

The policewoman, Saba Saher, is also a well-known actress, and she was said to be in stable condition following the shooting.

No one claimed the attacks in Kabul, but both the Taliban and the Islamic State group are active in the capital. The Islamic State has taken responsibility for the bulk of the attacks in the city in recent months.

Separately, the Ministry of Defense released a statement late on Monday, saying 91 Taliban fighters were killed during an air and ground operation by Afghan army troops trying to open the highway from northern Kunduz to Khanabad. The statement said 50 other Taliban were wounded in the fighting and that the highway was later reopened for traffic.

The Taliban is at its strongest since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion toppled its regime, which had harbored al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. The insurgents now control or hold sway over about half of Afghanistan.

The U.S. has tried to broker a peace deal between the Taliban and the government to unite against their common enemy, the Islamic State. Despite numerous prisoner swaps and the withdrawal of hundreds of U.S. troops from the region, however, the Taliban has refused to tamp down violence and come to an agreement.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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