Afghan militants carried out two suicide attacks Saturday, coinciding with the first day of the first visit to the country by newly confirmed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. First, insurgents struck one of Kabul’s most fortified areas, when a bomber on a bicycle detonated a bomb outside the Afghan Defense Ministry, killing at least nine people, reports the Associated Press. Then, in the southeast Afghanistan province of Khost, a suicide bomber killed a policeman and eight civilians, all of whom were minors between the ages of 7 and 17. The death toll could have likely been greater though because the policeman sacrificed himself, embracing the bomber when he realized what he was going to do, according to CNN.
"This attack was a message to him," a Taliban spokesman wrote in an e-mail, in reference to Hagel. The Taliban said it wanted to prevent Hagel from “spreading lies” about the insurgency being weak, reports the Washington Post. The bombs and the defiant statements by insurgents raise serious questions about the Taliban’s willingness to negotiate a peace deal with the Afghan government.