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At least 9 killed in Afghanistan as Taliban rejects truce calls

Kabul, Afghanistan, on Wednesday, June 15, 2011. (S.K. Vemmer/Department of State)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Violent bomb blasts continued to shake Afghanistan as Taliban militants have rejected calls for a holiday truce.

Afghan officials say there were three explosions in the capital, Kabul, on June 2, including a bomb that killed two people and injured 24 others.

The charge had been placed under a bus carrying officials headed to the Kabul Education University, Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said.

The blast was followed 20 minutes later by two roadside bombs in the same area, Rahimi added.

Wahidullah Mayar, spokesman for the Health Ministry, said 24 other people including four women were injured in the attacks. At least one person was killed by the first blast, while the second died in the hospital.

Rahimi said that five members of the security forces were among those injured.

At least two Afghan journalists were also injured in the attacks, the Afghanistan Journalists Center said.

The Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attack. In a statement, the extremist group said it set off an improvised explosive device on a bus allegedly transporting members of the Shi’ite community, and after security forces and journalists gathered at the site, it said it detonated two more bombs.

The blasts in the western part of Kabul came hours after at least seven police officers were killed after a car loaded with explosives blew up in the southeastern Ghazni Province.

At least eight other police officers were injured in the late June 1 blast at a police compound in the southern part of the Ghazni city, the provincial capital, council chief Nasir Ahmad Faqiri said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack and alleged that 40 police officers had been killed.

The blast was the latest in a series of deadly car bombs and suicide explosions to rock Afghanistan around the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and Eid, the festival that ends the Ramadan period.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for a May 22 car bomb explosion in Ghazni that left four people dead, including two police officers, and injured 17 others.

Blasts on successive days killed or wounded dozens of people in the capital, Kabul, on May 30-31.

Last year, the Taliban observed a three-day cease-fire during Eid. Many Afghans have hoped for another truce this year.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had proposed a nationwide cease-fire at the start of Ramadan, but the Taliban rejected the offer.

Taliban head Haibatullah Akhundzada on June 1 ruled out calling a cease-fire anytime soon, saying, “No one should expect us to pour cold water on the heated battlefronts of jihad or forget our 40-year sacrifices before reaching our objectives.”

Akhundzada also asserted that foreign forces in Afghanistan were “condemned to defeat.”

But Akhundzada, who has led the militant group since Akhtar Mansour was killed in a 2016 U.S. drone strike, also said that Islamist fighters would continue talks with the United States.

U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Islamabad on June 2 where he discussed “peace and stability in the region” with senior Pakistani diplomats and Defense Ministry officials, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said.

The ministry did not provide any further details but added that Khalilzad underscored Pakistan’s importance vis-a-vis Afghan peace and stability.

Khalilzad is traveling to Afghanistan and also Germany, Belgium, Qatar, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates as part of continuing efforts to end the long-running war.

The State Department said Khalilzad will meet again with Taliban negotiators for a new round of talks in Doha, where the group has a political office.

U.S. officials said Khalilzad will consult with the Afghan government and other Afghans while in Kabul. The Taliban has refused to negotiate directly with the Kabul government, calling it a puppet of the West.