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Taliban truck bombing kills at least five at Afghan military center

Former Taliban fighters (Lt. Joe Painter/Department of Defense)

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

A truck-bomb attack at a military center in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand Province has killed at least five people and wounded several others.

The May 4 attack came as U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said attacks by the Taliban were increasing, despite the United States and the militant group having signed a peace deal in February.

The Taliban, claiming responsibility for the bombing in Helmand, said it attacked a center where at least 150 members of the Afghan army and intelligence wing were stationed.

“Five members of the Afghan security forces and intelligence services were killed and seven others were wounded in a truck-bomb explosion in Grishk district,” Omar Zwak, a spokesman for the regional governor, told RFE/RL.

The Taliban claimed the toll was much higher, saying that “dozens” of Afghan soldiers had been killed and wounded in the attack, which occurred late on May 3.

“Dozens of members belonging to the enemy forces have been killed and wounded in the attack,” Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmedi said in a statement.

The Afghan Defense Ministry had earlier said only one member of the army was wounded.

In a separate incident, at least 20 people were injured when suspected Taliban militants threw a hand grenade into a mosque in the Khayerkot district of the southeastern Paktika Province late on May 3, police said.

Afghan security forces have suffered heavy losses across the country over the past two months.

The violence threatens to unravel a February peace deal between the United States and the Taliban, as the Afghan army is forced to fight the militants with less U.S. backup.

Esper did not mention the bombing on May 4, but acknowledged an increase in violence by the Taliban, although he noted that the militant group had not attacked U.S. forces.

Speaking during an online question-and-answer session hosted by a Washington think tank, Esper said a tentative power-sharing agreement announced last week between Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and rival Abdullah Abdullah was encouraging.

The Afghan government needed to organize itself, and then the peace process needed to get back on track, he said.

He said the peace deal remained “the best path forward.”