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Monday, August 19, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Ahead of truce, suicide bomber kills at least 13 in Afghan capital

Medical staffers attend to a wounded woman at a hospital after a deadly suicide attack, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, June 11, 2018. (Rahmat Gul / Associated Press)
Medical staffers attend to a wounded woman at a hospital after a deadly suicide attack, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, June 11, 2018. (Rahmat Gul / Associated Press)
By Sayed Salahuddin Washington Post

KABUL, Afghanistan – A suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance of an Afghan government building Monday, killing at least 13 people the day before a truce with Taliban insurgents is supposed to take hold.

Women were among those killed in the attack in the Afghan capital, Kabul police said. The Health Ministry said 13 employees of the Ministry of Rural Development were killed and 25 were wounded when the bomber struck as they were leaving work. According to news reports, the local branch of the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.

The strike came hours after four unknown assailants, one of them a suicide bomber, tried to storm a government education building in the eastern city of Jalalabad. A group of civilians were wounded in that attack, which was foiled by security forces, government officials said.

The violence occurred just before the government is due to begin a week-long truce with Taliban insurgents Tuesday. The cease-fire, which President Ashraf Ghani announced in a bid to move his country closer to peace, does not cover the Islamic State or other foreign militants in Afghanistan.

The Taliban, the largest insurgent group in Afghanistan, has pledged to observe its own, shorter truce during that same period, coinciding with the three days of Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim religious holiday marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. The Taliban truce is expected to begin Friday. Although the group said it would halt attacks on state forces for three days, it vowed to continue operations against foreign troops.

The cease-fires, while differing in durations and terms, are the first of their kind since the current conflict started in 2001. Although the Taliban and the Afghan government have taken heavy losses, neither side has been able to defeat the other in years of fighting, and insurgents retain control of vast areas of the Afghan countryside.

Clashes continued across the country on the eve of the government truce. In northern Kunduz province, more than a dozen Afghan security forces were killed in Taliban attacks overnight.

The U.S. military, which has about 15,000 troops in Afghanistan, has pledged to observe the terms of the government truce with the Taliban, but has said it will defend itself and its Afghan partners from any attack.

Ghani traveled to Kandahar, the Taliban’s birthplace, where he is expected to announce the start to the truce Tuesday.

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