FEBRUARY 16, 202110:13PM
Taliban fighters, including some of their best experts, gathered for a bomb-making class. But it could not have turned out worse for them.
Journalists, religious scholars, activists and judges have all been targeted in a recent wave of political assassinations that has spread panic across…
At least 30 Taliban militants have died in Afghanistan after they blew themselves up during a bomb-making class.
Afghan officials said the group had gathered inside a mosque for a “bomb-making training” session in the village of village of Qultaq in northern Afghanistan on Saturday.
The Afghan Army said the explosion was so powerful that there were no survivors and the fighters – including six foreign nationals who were expert mine makers – could not be identified because of the extent of the damage.
Fawad Aman, a spokesman for the nation’s defence ministry, called the accident the “deadliest of its kind” for the insurgents.
“In the past, the enemies would have suffered like six, eight or 10 people while either planting a bomb or making a mine, but this is the first time they suffered such heavy losses,” he told Arab News.
The Taliban confirmed the blast to the publication but denied reports of any loss of lives.
Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said that the explosion had occurred in a room used for storing ammunition and “not today as reported by government officials”.
Taliban violence has surged in recent months. Picture: Noorullah Shirzada/AFPSource:AFP
Taliban violence has surged in recent months – with a nationwide spike in bombings, targeted killings and violence – amid stuttering peace talks with the Kabul government.
The Islamic State group’s local affiliate has claimed responsibility for some of the attacks, but many go unclaimed, with the government putting the blame on the Taliban. The insurgents have denied responsibility for most of the attacks.
NATO Secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said overnight the alliance will not withdraw its troops from Afghanistan “before the time is right”, ahead of a discussion by defence ministers on the deployment.
The ministers of the 30 NATO member states will this week hold their highest-level talks since US President Joe Biden took office vowing to work closer with allies after four years of tensions under Donald Trump.
Top of the agenda for the virtual conference will be the fate of the alliance’s 9600-strong support mission in Afghanistan after Mr Trump struck a deal with the Taliban to withdraw troops.
Joe Biden took office vowing to work closer with allies after four years of tensions under Donald Trump. Picture: Thomas Watkins/AFPSource:AFP
The deployment’s future hinges on whether Mr Biden agrees to stick to a May deadline to pull out foreign forces or risks a bloody backlash from the Islamist insurgents by staying put.
“While no ally wants to stay in Afghanistan longer than necessary, we will not leave before the time is right,” Mr Stoltenberg told a media conference.
“Ministers will continue to assess the situation on the ground and monitor developments very closely.”
Mr Biden’s administration says it is reviewing the deal, and the Pentagon has accused the Taliban of not fulfilling promises that include reducing attacks and cutting ties to insurgent groups like al-Qaeda.
NATO allies want the US to consult more closely with them after feeling sidelined when Mr Trump cut US troop numbers to 2500 in January, their lowest figure since the start of the war in 2001.