At least 34 people were killed on Sunday in two separate suicide bombings in Afghanistan targeting a military base and a provincial commander, officials said.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attacks, which took place as Afghan government officials and the Taliban negotiated face to face in Qatar for the first time to end the country’s decades-long war.
In eastern Ghazni province, 31 soldiers were killed and 24 others wounded when the attacker drove a military humvee full of explosives to an army command base before detonating the car bomb, according to an Afghan National Security Council official, who spoke anonymously that he was not allowed to speak directly to the media.
Ghazni’s provincial health chief, Zahir Shah Nikmal, also confirmed the number of deaths and fatalities from the attack.
Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry released a statement claiming 10 soldiers were killed and nine wounded. The ministry also offered a different account of what happened than the official of the National Security Council and said that the vehicle exploded near the army base after security forces opened fire on the car. It was not immediately clear why there was a discrepancy.
Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said a suicide bombing took place, although he did not provide further details.
The soldiers stationed at the base were responsible for carrying out night raids, providing support to the army and police forces during the siege and participating in large-scale operations against the Taliban and Islamic State in the eastern and southern provinces of Afghanistan.
The base is located in a desert region, about 30 km (five kilometers) outside the city of Ghazni. Parts of the base and a nearby police building were partially destroyed by the powerful explosion. Windows were also blown up in buildings in the city near where the bombing took place.
In southern Afghanistan, another suicide bomber aimed at the convoy of a provincial councilor in Zabul province, killing at least three people and injuring 21 others, including children, according to provincial spokesman Gul Islam Sial.
The head of the council, Attajan Haqbayat, survived Sunday’s attack with minor injuries, even though one of his bodyguards was among those killed, police spokesman Hikmatullah Kochai said.
There has been a sharp increase in violence this year and a sharp attack by the Taliban against Afghanistan’s besieged security forces since the peace talks began in September. There have also been deadly attacks this month claimed by Islamic State militants in Afghanistan, including a horrific attack on Kabul University that killed 22 people, most of them students.
The United States, meanwhile, plans to withdraw an estimated 2,500 troops by mid-January, leaving about 2,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of America’s longest-running war. However, Afghan officials have expressed concern that a rapid reduction in US troops could strengthen the Taliban’s negotiating position.
The United States has been pushing for violence in recent weeks, while the Afghan government has called for a ceasefire. The Taliban have refused, saying a ceasefire will be part of the negotiations, although the group has kept its promise not to attack US and NATO troops.