A Taliban attack on a police training centre in Afghanistan’s eastern Paktia province has killed at least 14 people, including civilians.
Health Ministry spokesman Waheed Majroo said dozens were also wounded in the attack on Tuesday in Gardez, the provincial capital.
He said the city hospital reported receiving 130 wounded in the attack, which included a suicide bombing.
Hamza Aqmhal, a student at the Paktia University, told The Associated Press that he heard a very powerful blast.
He said it shattered glass and broke all the windows at the building he was in which he says is more than a mile from the training academy.
Mr Aqmhal said he was slightly injured by the glass.
A Paktia politician, Mujeeb Rahman Chamkni, said the provincial chief police, Toryalai Abdyani, and several of his staff were among those killed in the attack.
He said most of the casualties were civilians who had come to the centre, which also serves a government passport department.
Afghanistan’s strategic landscape is changing as regional powers forge links with the Taliban and vie to outdo each other in what’s being seen as a new “Great Game”.
Fifteen years after the US-led intervention in Afghanistan, competition for influence – reminiscent of that rivalry between the Russian and British empires in the 19th and early 20th Centuries, and that during the Cold War in the 1980s – is intensifying, complicating an already precarious security situation.
Suspicion and mistrust remain the biggest obstacle to stability in strategically-located Afghanistan, which has the potential to destabilise the wider region.
Pakistan, considered the main supporter of the Afghan Taliban, has been accused of playing a double game. But Afghan and Western officials as well as Taliban sources have also spoken about the Taliban’s clandestine links with Iran for the past few years.
And recently it emerged that Russia’s ties with the Taliban were warming too.
In December the top US commander in Afghanistan, Gen John Nicholson, criticised Russia and Iran for establishing links with the militants, which both countries have confirmed.
The US has also pursued contacts with the Taliban in recent years but those efforts have not brought peace. Several regional powers, most notably Russia and Iran, criticise the US and its allies for “failing” in achieving its original objectives of eliminating violent extremism and drugs in Afghanistan.
Three major factors have contributed to the shifting of regional alliances:
The emergence of so-called Islamic State in Afghanistan;
Changes in the approach of the new Afghan government;
Tensions between the US and regional players such as Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan.
The US’s decreasing military role in Afghanistan and a resurgent Taliban had contributed to creating a sense in regional capitals that Afghanistan’s fate was up for grabs. The political infighting in the central government in Kabul also raised concerns about political stability both inside and outside the country.
Over the past two years, alarm in Russia and former Soviet Central Asian republics grew as militancy spread to northern Afghan provinces close to their borders as well as to China’s Xinjiang region.
Conspiracy theories in Russia, Iran and China paint IS as an American or Western creation aimed at destabilising their countries.