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Afghan Blast on Eve of U.S. Pullout Deadline Kills at Least 27

KABUL, Afghanistan — On the eve of a symbolic date for America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, a truck laden with explosives blew up exterior a guesthouse south of the capital on Friday night time, killing at the least 27 folks.

If the blast was the work of the Taliban — there was no instant declare of duty, although the Afghan authorities rapidly blamed the insurgents — it might be probably the most overt sign but that the deal the Individuals reached with the group at Doha in February 2020 is off.

A secret annex to that deal bars the Taliban from conducting suicide assaults, they usually had been in sharp decline till Friday. As a substitute, the Taliban has maneuvered over the previous yr to check grey areas of the settlement, by finishing up, for instance, focused assassinations of journalists, officers and intellectuals.

There was a gradual drumbeat of those; on Saturday morning, a Kabul College professor was fatally shot in Kabul. And there was no letup in assaults on Afghan safety forces; dozens have been killed in current weeks.

However Friday night time’s assault in Logar province, with its heavy toll, appeared to symbolize a deliberate shift in techniques. The driving force of the truck blew himself up in an assault that additionally killed quite a few college students from rural areas who had been staying on the facility earlier than college entrance exams, officers mentioned. The guesthouse belonged to the household of a distinguished member of the Afghan senate, himself just lately assassinated by the Taliban.

Dozens of individuals had been buried beneath the rubble of the obliterated guesthouse within the provincial capital of Pul-e Alam, about 40 miles south of Kabul, and over 100 extra had been wounded.

The blast occurred simply earlier than a Might 1 deadline agreed to final yr by the Taliban and U.S. officers that was aimed toward ending America’s 20-year navy presence in Afghanistan.

The U.S. scrapped the Might 1 date two weeks in the past when President Biden extended the American deliberate withdrawal till Sept. 11. That extension angered the Taliban, who vowed there can be penalties if the U.S. didn’t absolutely adjust to the February 2020 deal.

The Taliban has usually mentioned that an American navy presence after Might 1 would symbolize a violation of the Doha settlement, and has threatened to assault U.S. forces in response.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, mentioned on Twitter on Saturday that “this violation in precept has opened the way in which” for his facet’s forces “to take each counter-action it deems applicable towards the occupying forces.”

The Taliban’s personal web site made no point out of the blast in Pul-e Alam Saturday, merely saying that “7 puppets had been killed when Mujahideen raided an enemy publish” there — “puppets” being the group’s most popular time period for presidency troops.

Whether or not Friday night time’s lethal blast was retaliation towards Mr. Biden’s extension was unclear Saturday. U.S. troops have already began to depart the nation, and American bases are being dismantled.

The Afghan authorities, ever desperate to painting the Taliban as faithless to the group’s settlement with the Individuals, misplaced no time Saturday in pinning the blame on the Islamist rebel group.

“These folks had been getting ready for the college entrance examination when the Taliban attacked them,” Hamdullah Mohib, Afghanistan’s nationwide safety adviser, mentioned on Saturday. “For the Taliban, each single Afghan is a goal.”

The nation’s president, Ashraf Ghani, held the Taliban “answerable for this large killing of the Muslim folks of Afghanistan,” which he mentioned was “towards God and towards the folks.”

The blast occurred simply as Afghans had been breaking their daylong Ramadan quick. The driving force of the truck apparently pulled as much as the guesthouse, officers mentioned, claiming to carry provides for the breaking of the quick.

Simply as he did so, the truck exploded, bringing down the roof and destroying the constructing. Images on the Tolo Information web site confirmed rescuers looking out the rubble at midnight for survivors.

In one other signal of faltering authorities resistance and of the Taliban’s regular encroachment on Afghan cities, the insurgents overran a military base on the fringe of the provincial capital of Ghazni on Friday night time, capturing 25 troopers.

Additionally Saturday, within the south, at Kandahar Airfield, a sprawling facility the place a small contingent of NATO and American forces had been dismantling what stays of their base there, the Taliban ushered in Might 1 with an early afternoon rocket assault.

The U.S. navy responded instantly to the rocket assault with an airstrike on a Taliban place, a Protection official mentioned.

Fahim Abed and Fatima Faizi contributed reporting from Kabul, Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed from Kandahar, and Farooq Jan Mangal contributed from Khost.

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