|Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers search men at a road checkpoint on the outskirts of Kabul on April 29, 2021. AFP/VNA Photo|
PUL-E-ALAM, Afghanistan – At least 21 people were killed and nearly 100 wounded Friday when a car bomb exploded in an Afghan city south of the capital that President Ashraf Ghani blamed on the Taliban.
The blast occurred in a residential area of Pul-e-Alam, capital of Logar province, as people were breaking their Ramadan fast, and came on the eve of the formal start of the US military's withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Interior ministry spokesman Tariq Arian told reporters that the blast left 21 people dead and 91 others wounded, updating an earlier toll.
The chief of Logar's provincial council, Hasibullah Stanikzai, said the car bomb targeted a guesthouse in the city where dozens of people were living -- including university students.
Arian said the blast caused widespread damage in the area, including to a hospital and residential houses.
"The roofs of houses have collapsed and people are trapped under the debris," he said, adding the toll might change. "The security forces are trying to rescue those trapped."
He later said three people had been rescued from under the debris.
Arian said the casualties include university students who were in the guesthouse to take exams, and doctors and patients from the hospital that was damaged by the blast.
Officials said those wounded were brought to Kabul for treatment.
Samat Gul, head of Logar health department, said the wounded had to be taken to Kabul since the blast damaged the main city hospital and its ambulances and also left some doctors wounded.
He said Kabul had dispatched ambulances so that the wounded could be taken to the capital.
Ghani blamed the Taliban for the attack.
"The Taliban have once again shown that they are not only unwilling to resolve the current crisis peacefully and fundamentally, but are complicating the situation and wasting the opportunity for peace," the Afghan president said in a statement.
The Taliban did not make any immediate comment.
The blast comes a day before the US military formally begins to pull out its remaining troops from the violence-wracked country.
US President Joe Biden announced earlier this month that all American troops will leave Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
Even as the US military withdraws its remaining some 2,500 troops from Afghanistan, fighting has continued unabated across several provinces.
Overall violence on the ground has increased as global diplomatic efforts to hammer out a peace deal between the warring sides have so far faltered.
Both the Taliban and government forces have clashed in near daily battles, inflicting high casualties on each other.
Scores of civilians, too, have been killed in the fighting in recent months, including many in targeted assassinations in Kabul and other cities. AFP