Officials said Tuesday that an hour-long attack on an Afghan police special forces base involving car bombs and a firefight killed five policemen and wounded dozens of people, as a top US negotiator called for an end to the bloodshed in Afghanistan.
Three suicide bombers detonated their explosives-loaded vehicles targeting the base in the city of Khost near the Pakistan border, Khost police chief Ghulam Daud Tarakhil told AFP before other gunmen tried to storm the compound.
Early in the morning, one suicide bomber blew up his vehicle at the base gates, while two others blew up their vehicles later during a gun battle between security forces and gunmen, he said.
A fierce firefight between the militants and the security forces that lasted for almost nine hours ended with the killing of seven other militants, Tarakhil said.
Afghanistan's spokesman for the interior ministry, Tariq Arian, confirmed the gun battle had ended.
The assault left 33 other people dead and wounded five policemen, including nine civilians, Tarakhil added.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack immediately.
The province of Restive Khost is home to active Taliban insurgents and Al-Qaeda fighters as well, officials say.
Three civilians were killed further north and 10 others were wounded in a separate attack Tuesday when a car-attached "sticky bomb" exploded near Kabul airport, police said.
In recent weeks, violence has raged across Afghanistan, even as the Taliban and the Afghan government remain engaged in peace talks to end the long-running conflict in the country.
-- 'Bloodshed must come to an end'-
Afghan and US officials have repeatedly warned that, since last month, the rising bloodshed is threatening talks in Qatar.
U.S. official Almay Khalilzad, who negotiated an agreement with the Taliban in February to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan by May of next year, traveled to Qatar again to push the two sides to rein in violence.
Khalilzad said on Twitter, "The window for achieving a political settlement will not remain open forever."
"Afghans die at a high rate, and Afghans are used as cannon fodder for their illegitimate goals by regional spoilers. The bloodshed must end."
The US State Department stated in a separate statement that Khalilzad will try to persuade the two sides to "speed up their efforts and agree to a political roadmap" that will end the conflict.
"Agreement on a reduction of violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire is urgently needed by the parties," it said.
In a report released Tuesday, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said the pace of civilian casualties has not slowed since talks began on September 12.
"It will take some time for peace talks to help deliver peace," UNAMA chief Deborah Lyons said in the report.
"But all parties can immediately prioritize discussions and take urgent, and, frankly, overdue, additional steps to address the dreadful harm to civilians."
However, UNAMA added that in the first nine months of 2020, the overall number of civilian casualties fell by around 30 percent compared to the corresponding period last year.
There were 2,177 civilians killed and 3,822 wounded in the first nine months of this year, the report said.
The majority of civilian casualties, about 58 percent, were caused by "anti-government elements," such as the Taliban group and the Islamic State, it said.
23 percent of all civilian casualties were attributed to Afghan security forces, many killed in airstrikes and ground commitments.