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At least 50 killed in separate attacks in Afghanistan despite peace efforts

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.

More than 50 people have been killed in a wave of attacks across three Afghan provinces, including the capital, Kabul, despite renewed momentum in peace efforts to put an end to the country’s nearly 18-year war.

Three blasts in eastern Kabul on July 25 left at least eight dead, including five women and one child, officials said.

Twenty-seven others were wounded in the explosions, Ministry of Public Health spokesman Wahidullah Mayar said.

The first involved a suicide bomber on a motorcycle who blew himself up next to a bus belonging to the Ministry of Mines, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi.

A second explosion took place in the same area while a third explosion triggered by a car bomb took place further east, Rahimi said.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the car bomb, saying that a convoy of “foreign invaders” passing the area was targeted in the bombing.

The other attacks have not yet been claimed.

Violence in Afghanistan has intensified in recent weeks as both Afghan forces and Taliban militants attempt to increase their leverage in ongoing peace talks.

U.S. and Taliban representatives have held several rounds of peace talks since last year and Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan, is currently in Kabul to consult on the next steps in the process ahead of a new round of talks in Qatar next week.

While no agreement has been reached, both sides have reported progress in the talks.

The Taliban, however, has refused to meet with Kabul government officials whom they regard as U.S. puppets.

The Taliban control or contest around half of the country, controlling more territory than any time since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 ousted the group from power.

The July 25 attack is the 13th in Kabul city alone since the beginning of the year, leaving more than 70 dead and over 510 others injured.

On the same day outside of the capital, nine civilians — six women and three children — were killed and four were wounded in a roadside bombing in the eastern province of Nangarhar, the provincial governor’s office said in a statement.

The roadside bomb struck a minibus carrying a family that was heading to a wedding, according to the statement. The attack occurred in Nangarhar’s Khogyani district.

In the northern province of Takhar, at least 35 police officers were killed in a Taliban attack on security facilities. At least 12 people, including six police officers, were also injured in an hours-long gun battle that took place in the Ishkamish district, former district Governor Sayed Mehrabuddin said.

The latest violence came as a spokesman for Afghan chief executive officer Abdullah Abdullah told local media outlet Tolo News on July 24 that the Taliban can take part in the September 28 presidential election if they start negotiations with the Afghan government.

Speaking four days before the presidential election campaign starts, the spokesman, Fraidoon Khwazoon, said “the door is open for the Taliban whenever they are willing to come and sit with the Afghan government and take part in democratic and national stages.””

A day earlier Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, just back from a trip to Washington, said he will meet with the Taliban to try and persuade them to start negotiations with the Western-backed government in Kabul.

“Now I will meet the Taliban…to get them to talk to the Afghan government, and so that the election” can be inclusive, Khan said at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington on July 23.

There are 18 candidates competing for the presidency including current incumbent Ashraf Ghani, who is seeking a second term.

All of them are men, including a former warlord.