Gunmen attack intelligence service centre in Kabul

Suicide bomber targets Shiite students in Kabul; at least 48 dead

The Ghazni attack, one of the Taliban's most devastating in years, has clouded hopes for peace talks that had been prompted by an unprecedented ceasefire during the Eid celebration in June and a meeting last month between Taliban officials and a senior US diplomat.

According to Kabul police, the assailants used a nearby house under construction to stage the attack, which sparked exchanges of gunfire lasting several hours, followed by explosions.

But civilians have long taken the brunt of the violence in Afghanistan - especially in Kabul, a target of both the Taliban and IS - and Wednesday's attack on the school was branded a "war crime" by Amnesty International.

Dilawar Aymaq, a parliamentarian from Baghlan, said the attack targeted a military checkpoint and another manned by the so-called local police, militias recruited and paid by the Interior Ministry. The operation to neutralize the threat continues.

But the cost that that military confrontation exacts in civilian lives and disruption undermines the credibility of the government, undermines people's confidence in the government, and that in many ways is the objective of the attacks.

"Afghan security forces have cordoned off the area as the clashes are ongoing".

"This violence must stop".

UNICEF, meanwhile, branded the attack "deplorable" and called for parties on all sides of the conflict to protect children.

The United Nations Security Council condemned the bombing as a "heinous and cowardly terrorist attack", saying that it "underlined the need to hold perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism accountable and bring them to justice". He said over 400 Taliban fighters took part. The Islamic State group, in a posting on its Aamaq News Agency, claimed more than 200 people were killed or wounded in Wednesday's suicide bombing.

The UN has warned that as many as 150 civilians may have also been killed.

Kandahar was the religious heartland of the Taliban during their five-year rule that ended with the 2001 invasion by US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces following the 9/11 attacks in the United States.

IS, however, has carried out multiple attacks in the eastern city of Jalalabad and the capital in recent months, targeting sites ranging from government ministries to a midwife training centre.

The move perhaps the most serious challenge to the government's hold in urban areas since the Taliban briefly occupied the city of Kunduz in 2015, and comes at a time when the Trump administration appears to be accelerating negotiations with an insurgency it has been fighting for 17 years.

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