A Taliban truck bomb killed at least 20 people and wounded 95 when it exploded in southern Afghanistan on Thursday, Reuters reported. The toll is expected to rise as rescue operations are underway.

The Taliban said the target of Thursday’s attack was a nearby building of the government’s intelligence department in Qalat, the capital of Zabul province. The explosion took place near a hospital.

“Twenty bodies and 95 wounded people had been evacuated from the blast site,” said Haji Atta Jan Haqbayan, a member of the provincial council in Qalat. “The number of casualties may rise as rescue teams and people are still searching for bodies under the rubble,” he added.

Several women, children, health workers and patients were reportedly in critical condition.

“The bomb was huge and it was carried by a mini-truck,” an unidentified senior defence ministry official in Kabul told Reuters.

The blast happened nine days before Afghanistan’s presidential election, which the Taliban has vowed to violently disrupt, and followed the collapse of peace talks between the United States and the terror group. More than nine million people are expected to vote in the presidential election on September 28.

On Tuesday, at least 48 people were killed in two separate attacks near an election rally by President Ashraf Ghani. The president was not injured in the attack.

Taliban wants all American and NATO troops to leave the country and is at its strongest now since the US took control of large parts of the country following the 9/11 attacks.

Last week, United States President Donald Trump said he had called off secret talks with the Taliban after they admitted responsibility for a bombing in Kabul that killed at least 16 people, including an American soldier.

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