Death toll from bombing near Afghanistan hospital climbs to 39

A Taliban suicide bombing of a hospital in southern Afghanistan killed 39 people, nearly double the previous death toll, a provincial governor spokesperson said on Friday.

Several civilians killed in Qalat hospital suicide attack as well as U.S. drone strike in Nangarhar

Damaged cars at the site of a suicide attack in Zabul on Thursday. The death toll was nearly doubled Friday from initial estimates, with most of those killed civilians. (Ahmad Wali Sarhadi/The Associated Press)

The death toll in a Taliban truck bombing that destroyed a hospital in southern Afghanistan has risen to 39, from 20, with 140 wounded, a spokesperson for the provincial governor said on Friday.

"Only two of those killed were security force members and the rest of them are civilians, including women, children, patients and visitors," Gul Islam Syaal said of Thursday's attack.

The Taliban said the target of the attack in Qalat, the capital of Zabul province, was a nearby building housing the government's intelligence department.

Islamist militants have been carrying out nearly daily attacks since the collapse of peace talks with the United States this month, in the run-up to elections on Sept. 28.

Casualties since the talks fell apart less than two weeks ago are now at least 331, including 96 killed.

The Taliban has said its fighters will step up their campaign against the Afghan government and foreign forces to dissuade people from voting.

Ghani comments on hospital attack, but not drone strike

President Ashraf Ghani on Friday promised measures to prevent civilian casualties in the war against militants, a day after at least 30 civilians were killed in a U.S. drone strike in eastern Nangarhar province.

Ghani said he had introduced "checks and balances" to stop night raids and attacks leading to the loss of innocent lives.

He was speaking at an election rally in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province.

Afghan forces, often backed by the U.S. military, have intensified ground and air operations against Islamist groups to protect civilians, government buildings, polling stations and a large expatriate population.

But some of their operations have killed and injured civilians, angering locals who have staged protests against the tactical blunders committed by the foreign and Afghan forces.

Ghani said he has ordered investigations into recent incidents in which the Afghan forces accidentally targeted civilians. He did not comment directly on the U.S. drone strike.

U.S. security officials in Afghanistan said the drone strike was intended to destroy a hideout used by Islamic State fighters.