Several people were killed and at least 43 injured in a car bomb attack in northern Afghanistan. After the explosion, there was a skirmish between attackers and forces, the authorities of the province of Samangan said. As the fighting continued in the provincial capital Aibak, no death toll could be named. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

Most of the injured were civilians, including children, said the provincial hospital chief, Abdul Chalil Mussadik. The target of the suicide bomber who detonated the car bomb was the office of the Samangan Secret Service, said the deputy chairman of the provincial council, Mohammed Haschim Sarawari. The explosion was so strong that you could hear it miles away. Surrounding buildings and houses were also damaged.

Taliban spokesman Sabihullah Mujahid said his group had committed the crime. The militant Islamists are active in Samangan and have recently intensified their attacks there. Warlords and Islamist insurgents with connections to Uzbekistan are also represented in the province.

Increase in violence

Nationwide battles also killed at least 25 members of the security forces during the night. The attacks took place in the northern province of Kunduz, in the central province of Parwan, and in Badakhshan in the northeast, as several provincial councilors said.

For weeks, the Afghan government and international actors have been pushing for the planned intra-Afghan peace talks to begin to end the conflict with the militant Islamist Taliban. The violence in the country continues. The Taliban reiterated their struggle on Sunday. A ceasefire will only be negotiated with the peace talks.

The United States signed an agreement with the Taliban on February 29 in Doha, Qatar. It provides for a withdrawal of international troops and an exchange of prisoners as a confidence-building measure and is intended to pave the way for peace talks within Afghanistan. The Kabul government had not been involved because the Taliban had previously refused to speak directly to it.