A wave of attacks in Kabul has killed more than 40 people, including a Nato soldier, in the deadliest 24 hours in the Afghan capital in years.
Most of the deceased were civilians or young police cadets, while Nato confirmed one international service member was among the dead.
The deadliest attack occurred on Friday when a suicide bomber, dressed in police uniform, detonated an explosives vest outside the gates of a police academy in the middle of a crowd of recruits waiting to return after the weekend.
A few hours later, another two explosions went off in the Qasaba neighbourhood north of the airport, followed by sporadic gunfire, when insurgents tried to storm a US special operations base known as Camp Integrity. One service member was killed, as were eight civilian contractors and two insurgents, according to Col Brian Tribus, a spokesman for international forces in .
“A coalition facility [Camp Integrity] was attacked at 10.15pm, 7 August. One Resolute Support service member and two insurgent attackers were killed,” Tribus said in a statement, without providing more information. The individual is the international service member killed in Afghanistan this year.
Following the attack on the US base, military jets circled the skies above Kabul into the early morning hours.
The Afghan capital had been on alert since early on Friday, when a massive exploded outside an Afghan army base in a residential area called Shah Shaheed, close to the centre of Kabul.
The blast killed at least 20 people and injured several hundred, despite occurring at 1am when the streets are less busy. Most injuries were light, caused by splintered glass, but dozens of people remained in the hospital on Saturday morning.
All casualties of the truck bomb blast were civilian, according to Kabir Amiri, spokesman for Kabul hospitals. The blast left a massive crater in the ground, and shattered dozens of shop fronts along the road.
While the truck bomb exploded outside a Ministry of Defence base, the exact purpose remains unclear, and the timing of the attack was unusual. According to a security source speaking to the Guardian, the US military frequently visits the Afghan army base in Shah Shaheed, which also contains a facility housing several high-level detainees.
A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahed, said the group was responsibile for the attack on the police academy, but no one has yet claimed the truck bomb attack or the assault on Camp Integrity.
The attacks add to a rising number of civilians caught up in the violence of the war. In a new on Wednesday, the UN said civilian casualties were higher than at any point during the war in Afghanistan. During the first six months of 2015, almost 5,000 civilians were killed or wounded.
Underlying these numbers is a change in tactics by the insurgents. The first half of 2015 saw an increase of 78% in suicide and complex attacks, such as the ones that shook Kabul on Friday.
As a result, women and children are increasingly among the killed or injured. About a quarter of the casualties of the Afghan war have been children. According to Zafar Hashemi, a presidential spokesman, the truck bomb wounded 240 people, including 47 women and 33 children.
With at least 35 dead, the attacks made Friday the deadliest 24 hours in Kabul since December 2011, when a suicide bomber killed more than 50 worshippers outside the Abu Fazl mosque during the Shia holy day of Ashura.
The three attacks took place a week after the announcement of the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar. According to Afghan intelligence, Omar died more than two years ago in a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan.
The pronouncement of Omar’s death, and the implication that the leadership has deceived the majority of the movement’s members for years, has plunged the Taliban into turbulence and unleashed a power struggle. A leadership council last week appointed Mullah Akhtar Mansour, who had been Omar’s deputy since 2010, to head the movement, but he is facing staunch internal resistance, including from members of Omar’s family.
Following the announcement, the Taliban postponed a second round of reconciliation talks with Afghan government representatives scheduled to take place in the Pakistani hill town Murree.
While the next round is unlikely to get off the ground before the insurgents reach some consensus around a new leader, the recent violence could be an attempt to display military power ahead of talks. With the attacks, the insurgents demonstrate to the Afghan government they are still capable of striking at the heart of the fortified capital.
The attacks might also be a signal to Taliban fighters that the disarray in the movement should not be an obstacle to continued jihad against government security forces and their foreign backers.