9:35 am - Monday August 19, 2019

Taliban Suicide Bombers Kill Seven, Injure 19 People in Kabul

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KABUL—Taliban suicide bombers struck in Kabul on Wednesday, killing seven people and injuring 19, a day after Afghanistan’s new government agreed to allow U.S. and allied troops to remain in the country after the end of this year.

Early Wednesday morning, one attacker on foot targeted a bus carrying Afghan Ministry of Defense staff in western Kabul, killing six Afghan troops and one civilian, according to Hashmat Stanikzai, a spokesman for the Kabul police.

Elsewhere in the city, a second suicide bomber, also on foot, struck an Afghan army vehicle, wounding four people, two of them civilians, Mr. Stanikzai said. Overall, 11 troops and eight civilians were injured in the two attacks. The Afghan Ministry of Defense confirmed the casualties.

The Taliban in a statement claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying they are a response to President Ashraf Ghani’s decision to sign a bilateral security agreement with the U.S.

“The slave government of Afghanistan signed an agreement with America yesterday that will boost the morale of our mujahedeen fighters,” the statement said.

On Tuesday, the government of President Ghani signed long-awaited security pacts with the U.S. and with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that would allow some 12,000 foreign troops to remain in the country after the end of this year, when the current mission ends. The pacts pave the way for two missions that would focus on training Afghan troops and on counterterrorism operations, and are tied to vital financial assistance to Kabul.

While the exact number and composition of the international force that will stay in Afghanistan after December is yet to be determined, U.S. President Barack Obamapreviously pledged some 9,800 U.S. troops to the two missions. Allied countries, including Italy, Germany and the U.K., are expected to commit several hundred troops each to the training force.

The security agreements were signed a day after Mr. Ghani was sworn in as president, marking his government’s first major act. His predecessor, Hamid Karzai, last yearrefused to sign the deals, arguing they would undermine chances for peace in his country. This delay raised fears a new government wouldn’t come to office in time for the U.S. military to plan for an enduring force.

The insurgency is targeting the Afghan capital in an apparent show of force that coincides with Mr. Ghani’s first days in office. On Inauguration Day, a Taliban suicide bomber struck near the entrance of Kabul’s heavily fortified airport, killing seven people.

The Taliban have rejected the legitimacy of Mr. Ghani’s government, and on Tuesday slammed his decision to sign security pacts that would allow “infidel invaders” to stay in Afghanistan.

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