A bomb blast killed at least 24 people at a campaign rally for Afghanistan's president, Ashraf Ghani, on Tuesday, The New York Times reports. At least 31 other people were wounded. Ghani was inside a building when a suicide bomber on a motorcycle detonated the bomb outside. He was unhurt; many of the casualties were women and children, The Associated Press reports.
Ghani has been campaigning in his re-election bid mostly by video conference ahead of the Sept. 28 vote, which is taking place under threat of attacks by Taliban insurgents. The Taliban has vowed to disrupt the vote. Hours after the blast at the rally, another blast hit near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. Few details on the second explosion were immediately available, and no group claimed responsibility for either blast. Harold Maass
Civilian casualties in Afghanistan rose by 11 percent in 2018 to hit their highest level in a decade, the United Nations reported Sunday.
The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) found 3,804 civilians, of whom 927 were children, were killed in their country's conflict last year. Another 7,189 civilians were injured.
"Key factors contributing to the significant increase in civilian casualties were a spike in suicide attacks" by terrorist groups including the Islamic State, the U.N. report said, as well as "increased harm to civilians from aerial and search operations" by U.S. and Afghan forces. Thirty-seven percent of the killings are attributed to the Taliban, the highest mark for an individual group cited in the report.
Per Al Jazeera, the UNAMA report was released a day before the U.S. is scheduled to meet with representatives from the Taliban in Doha, Qatar for their next round of talks centered on ending the conflict. The previous sit-down raised tentative hopes that peace will be achieved, but also concern that a U.S. withdrawal will lead to increased violence. Tim O'Donnell