A suicide bomber killed at least 20 police cadets and wounded another 25 when he blew himself up outside the gates of a police academy in Kabul on Friday evening. The bomber, dressed in police uniform, detonated an explosives vest after approaching a group of cadets who were waiting outside the academy.
The assault on the academy was the second major insurgency attack in Kabul in less than 24 hours. In another early on Friday, a truck bomb exploded outside an Afghan national army base in a residential area close to the centre of Kabul, killing at least 15 people and injuring several hundred. All the casualties were civilian, according to Kabir Amiri, spokesman for Kabul hospitals. The blast left a massive crater in the ground and shattered dozens of shopfronts.
A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahed, took responsibility for the attack on the police academy, but no group has yet claimed the truck bomb attack.
A third attack unfolded in the late evening on Friday, when two explosions ripped through an area north of Kabul airport. The blast was followed by sporadic gunfire and the sound of military jets flying over Kabul.
The neighbourhood, called Qabasa, is home to a counter-narcotics headquarters and several US military bases, but the target of the attack was still unconfirmed at the time of writing, as were potential casualties.
A western security source told Reuters: “Anti-government elements launched a complex attack against Camp Integrity, initiated with a vehicle-borne bomb and followed by small arms fire and further explosions.”
According to another security source, speaking to the Guardian, the US military also frequently visits Shah Shadeed the area where the first truck bomb exploded early on Friday.
Government officials were not available for comment on Friday evening.
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, amid indications that the leadership has deceived the majority of the movement’s members for years, has unleashed a power struggle in the top of the movement. A leadership council last week appointed Mullah Akhtar Mansour, who had been Omar’s deputy since 2010, to head the movement, but he has faced 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 last Friday 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 that they are still capable of striking at the heart of the fortified capital.
The attacks might might also be a signal to foot soldiers in the movement that the disarray in the movement should not be an obstacle to continued jihad against the government security forces and their foreign backers.
In a new , the UN said on Wednesday that 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, according to the UN. About a quarter of the casualties of the Afghan war have been children.