(Updates death toll, adds Taliban response)
By Abdul Qadir Sediqi and Orooj Hakimi
KABUL (Reuters) -A huge car bomb blast killed at least 27 people and injured dozens more in Afghanistan’s eastern Logar province on Friday evening, with high school students among the casualties, local officials said.
The car packed with explosives detonated in Logar’s capital of Pul-e Alam near the house of the former head of the provincial council, Didar Lawang, the spokesman for Logar’s governor, said.
The house also operated as a guesthouse and the blast had struck just as guests were breaking their fast during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, according to the head of Logar’s provincial council, Hasibullah Stanekzai, who told Reuters 27 people had been killed and dozens more wounded.
He said among the casualties were high school students who had been staying at the house, having travelled to the capital to sit their university entrance exam, as well as pro-government militia members who were staying there while waiting for air transport to another distinct.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the blast. A spokesman for the insurgent Taliban said in response to Reuters’ questions that they were looking into the matter.
Violence in Afghanistan has escalated in recent weeks after U.S. President Joe Biden announced the United States would withdraw troops by Sept. 11 to end two decades of foreign military presence.
That decision angered the Taliban who had signed a deal with previous U.S. President Donald Trump that specified troops would be gone from the country by May 1 subject to certain security guarantees.
Interior ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said 21 people had been killed and 91 wounded and that a rescue and recovery operation was continuing.
A provincial health official said just over 60 injured people had been taken to hospital and many students were among the victims.
The European Union’s delegation to Afghanistan condemned the attack.
“In the holy month of Ramadan, horrible news on a car bomb in Pul-e-Alam, Logar province, killing and injuring innocent civilians, including students….this is a tragedy for the whole country,” it said on Twitter.
(Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi and by Orooj Hakimi; Additional reporting by Ahmad Sultan; Writing by Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Andrew Heavens, David Gregorio and Toby Chopra)