The assault came amid stepped up security in response to intelligence reports indicating the al-Qaida-backed Taliban were planning attacks to coincide with Monday’s celebration of Afghanistan’s independence from Britain in 1919, according to Reuters.
As security forces were dealing with the first bombing, two more suicide bombers approached in a second car but were shot dead by police before they could detonate their explosives.
The blast occurred near the town of Khost, the main hub for U.S. and NATO-led operations in southeastern Afghanistan.
“The victims were all poor laborers and civilians,” the governor of Khost province, Arsala Jamal, told Reuters. “This was a barbaric act carried out by the enemies of Afghanistan at a time of celebration of independence.”
The Taliban is trying to oust the pro-Western Afghan government and drive out foreign troops. As of the end of July, the Taliban had detonated 77 suicide bombs this year, and security forces have thwarted another 76 suicide bomb attacks, according to Reuters.
All U.N. staff were directed to work from home on Monday. About 7,000 police were deployed in the capital Kabul, and were searching buildings and cars to try to prevent disruptive activity, the Interior Ministry said, according to the Associated Press.
The location of the official celebration was kept under wraps and off-limits to the public to try to avoid insurgent activity.
In other violence, a bomb blast killed two police on patrol late Sunday in the eastern province of Nangarhar, said Ghafor Khan, spokesman for the provincial police chief.
And several militants were killed in separate battles with U.S.-led coalition troops in the eastern provinces of Kapisa and Paktika on Sunday, the military said.