Five UAE officials killed in Kandahar attack
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The United Arab Emirates on Wednesday said five officials were killed in a bombing in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar the previous day in one of several deadly attacks across Afghanistan.
Flags will fly at half-mast in honour of the slain officials, said a statement released by UAE authorities Wednesday.
Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said on Twitter that "there is no human, moral or religious justification for the bombing and killing of people trying to help" others.
ننعى اليوم بكل فخر شهداء العمل الانساني الإماراتي في جمهورية أفغانستان، خمسة شهداء ختموا حياتهم وهم يسعون لخدمة الضعفاء والأطفال والمحتاجين pic.twitter.com/P5Nserg3eD— HH Sheikh Mohammed (@HHShkMohd) January 11, 2017
At least 11 people were killed when explosives hidden in a sofa detonated inside the governor's compound in the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar during a visit by the UAE ambassador to Afghanistan. Among the wounded were Kandahar Gov. Homayun Azizia, as well as UAE Ambassador Juma Mohammed Abdullah al-Kaabi.
The Taliban issued a statement Wednesday saying they did not plant the bomb, instead blaming an "internal local rivalry" for the attack.
The attack was one of several in Afghanistan Tuesday, underscoring the growing insecurity in a country where US-backed forces are struggling to contain a Taliban insurgency as well as threats from al Qaeda and Islamic State (IS) group militants.
Just hours before the Kandahar attack, twin Taliban blasts in Kabul tore through the parliament complex just as employees were exiting the compound during rush hour. At least 30 people were killed and 80 injured.
And earlier Tuesday, a Taliban suicide bomber killed seven people in Lashkar Gah, the capital of volatile Helmand province, as the militants ramp up nationwide attacks despite the onset of winter, when fighting usually wanes.
Taliban claims Kabul attacks
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said they were behind the Kabul explosions, adding the victims were mostly Afghan intelligence agents. The insurgents are known to exaggerate battlefield claims.
The parliament complex has been a prime target for insurgents. In June 2015 Taliban militants attacked the old parliament building, sending lawmakers running for cover in chaotic scenes relayed live on television.
That incident ended two hours later when all seven attackers, including a suicide car bomber, were gunned down by Afghan forces.
The Taliban are pressing ahead with nationwide attacks despite the onset of winter, when fighting usually ebbs, as international efforts to jumpstart peace talks falter.
Repeated bids to launch peace negotiations with the Taliban have failed and a fierce new fighting season is expected to kick off in the spring.
Afghanistan last week welcomed the Pentagon's decision to deploy some 300 US Marines to Helmand, where American forces engaged in heated combat until their mission ended in 2014.
The Marines will head to the poppy-growing province this spring to assist a NATO-led mission to train Afghan forces, in the latest sign that foreign forces are increasingly being drawn back into the worsening conflict.
The situation in Afghanistan will be an urgent matter for the new US president, even though America's longest war got scarcely a passing mention in the bitterly contested presidential election.
US president-elect Donald Trump has given few details on his expected foreign policy, with even fewer specifics on how he will tackle the war in Afghanistan.
(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)