20 Dead in Kabul Police Academy Attack as Truck Bomb Kills 15, Hurts 240

At least 20 Afghan cadets were killed when a suicide attacker blew himself up at the entrance of Kabul Police Academy on Friday, officials said.

"The attacker was wearing police uniform... when he detonated his explosives, 20 cadets were killed and 20 more were wounded," a senior Afghan intelligence official told AFP, requesting anonymity.

The bomber managed to place himself in a queue as police trainees were waiting to be searched before entering the academy, the official said.

The Taliban were behind the suicide attack, the spokesman for the group, Zabihullah Mujahid, told AFP.

Another police official confirmed that toll while a third senior security source told AFP that 25 cadets were killed in the attack.

The incident, which comes as cadets were returning to the academy after their two-day weekend, marks a serious breach of security at a premier training institute for Afghan security forces.

Heavily-armed security officials cordoned off the area and ambulances with wailing sirens were seen rushing to the scene.

The academy in west Kabul is a premier training institution for police forces in Afghanistan, with between 2,000 and 3,000 cadets graduating every year.

The suicide bombing comes less than 24 hours after a huge truck bomb tore through central Kabul, killing 15 civilians and wounding 240 others in the first major attack in the Afghan capital since the announcement of Taliban leader Mullah Omar's death.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which came as the Taliban stepped up their summer offensive despite a bitter power transition within the militant movement.

A truck packed with explosives detonated just after midnight near an army base in the neighborhood of Shah Shaheed but rattled homes across the city, ripping off the facades of buildings and leaving scattered piles of rubble.

The force of the explosion left an enormous crater in the road, around 10 meters (30 feet) deep, and destroyed the boundary wall of the base although no military casualties were reported.

"The killed and wounded include women and children, and labourers of a nearby marble stone company are among the victims. The attack was intended to cause mass murder," Kabul police chief General Abdul Rahman Rahimi said.

Army soldiers erected a security cordon ringing the military base close to Shah Shaheed, a largely middle-class civilian residential area with no major foreign presence.

The wounded were overwhelming city hospitals, officials said, with reports emerging of blood shortages and urgent appeals for donors circulating on social media.

The carnage comes a day after Taliban insurgents killed nine people in multiple attacks on police targets, including a truck bombing in the eastern volatile province of Logar.

The attacks highlight growing insecurity amid a faltering peace process with the Taliban as Afghan forces face their first summer fighting season without full NATO support.

- 'Contemptible act' - 

The NATO mission in Afghanistan condemned Friday's bombing as a "contemptible act of violence".

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP he was "unaware" of the Kabul bombing. The militants are known to distance themselves from attacks that result in a large number of civilian casualties.

A U.N. report published Wednesday said civilian casualties in Afghanistan hit a record high in the first half of 2015.

The report said 1,592 civilians were killed, a six percent fall from last year, but the number of injured jumped four percent to 3,329. 

Overall, casualties reached their highest level since the UN began issuing its authoritative reports in 2009.

The statistics are a grim indicator of the rising violence as the Taliban insurgency spreads north from its traditional southern and eastern strongholds, with Afghan forces increasingly battling the militants on their own.

U.S.-led NATO forces ended their combat mission in Afghanistan in December last year, but a 13,000-strong residual force remains for training and counter-terrorism operations.

The Taliban face growing internal divisions after Mullah Akhtar Mansour was announced as the new head of the insurgent movement last week.

This came shortly after the Taliban's confirmation of the death of Mullah Omar, who led the militant movement for some 20 years.

An increasingly bitter power struggle has since broken out, casting a pall over a fragile peace process aimed at ending Afghanistan's long war.

The Taliban distanced themselves from the second round of talks that were scheduled for last week but were cancelled after the announcement of Omar's death.

The powerful army chief of Pakistan, the Taliban's historic sponsors, said this week that ongoing efforts at talks are the "only credible way" to achieve lasting peace in the region.

Source: Agence France Presse

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