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World

Three blasts kill at least two in Afghanistan's Jalalabad

  • The hardline group stormed to power in mid-August, ousting the government and promising to restore security to the violence-wracked country
Updated 18 Sep 2021

KABUL: Two people were killed when three blasts struck the Afghan city of Jalalabad on Saturday, at least one of which targeted a Taliban vehicle, in the country's first deadly attack since the United States withdrew.

The hardline group stormed to power in mid-August, ousting the government and promising to restore security to the violence-wracked country.

"In one attack a Taliban vehicle patrolling in Jalalabad was targeted," a Taliban official who asked not to be named told AFP.

"Women and children were among the injured," he added.

An official from the health department of Nangarhar Province told AFP that three people died and 18 were wounded, while several local media reported the attacks left at least two dead.

Pictures taken at the site of the blast showed a green pick-up truck with a white Taliban flag surrounded by debris as armed fighters looked on.

Jalalabad is the capital of Nangarhar, the heartland of the Islamic State group's Afghanistan branch.

A chaotic US-led evacuation of foreigners and Afghans who worked for international forces was marred by a devastating bomb attack claimed by the IS which killed scores of people.

But since the last American troop left on August 30, the violence-wracked country that was plagued by fighting, bombs and air strikes, has been free of major incidents.

Boys back to school, not girls

Saturday's bombing came as the Taliban ordered boys and male teachers to return to secondary school in Afghanistan -- but girls were excluded.

The diktat from the education ministry was the latest move from the new government to threaten women's rights.

"All male teachers and students should attend their educational institutions," a statement said ahead of classes resuming Saturday, the first day of the week in Afghanistan.

The statement, issued late Friday, made no mention of women teachers or girl pupils.

Secondary schools, with students typically between the ages of 13 and 18, are often segregated by sex. During the Covid-19 pandemic, they have faced repeated closures and have been shut since the Taliban seized power.

Since a US-led invasion ousted the Taliban in 2001, significant progress has been made in girls' education, with the number of schools tripling and female literacy nearly doubling to 30 percent -- however, the change was largely limited to the cities.

The United Nations said it was "deeply worried" for the future of girls' schooling in Afghanistan.

Pentagon says Kabul drone strike killed 10 civilians in 'tragic mistake'

"It is critical that all girls, including older girls, are able to resume their education without any further delays. For that, we need female teachers to resume teaching," the UN's children's agency UNICEF said.

'Shooting itself in the foot'

In a further sign that the Taliban's approach to women and girls had not softened, a sign outside the ministry of women's affairs was replaced with another -- declaring the feared department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

Videos posted to social media showed women workers from the ministry protesting outside after losing their jobs.

No official from the Taliban responded to requests for comment.

Although still marginalised, Afghan women have fought for and gained basic rights in the past 20 years, becoming lawmakers, judges, pilots and police officers.

The Taliban have shown little inclination to honour those rights -- no women have been included in the government and many have been stopped from returning to work.

Meanwhile, a top United States general admitted it had made a "mistake" when it launched a drone strike against suspected Islamic State (IS) militants in Kabul last month, instead killing 10 civilians, including children.

The strike during the final days of the US pullout was meant to target a suspected IS operation that US intelligence believed with "reasonable certainty" was planning to attack Kabul airport, said US Central Command commander General Kenneth McKenzie.

"The strike was a tragic mistake," McKenzie told reporters after an investigation.

McKenzie said the government was looking into how payments for damages could be made to the families of those killed.

"I offer my deepest condolences to surviving family members of those who were killed," US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement.

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