KabuL    -   A US drone strike intended to hit an Islamic State hideout in Afghanistan has killed at least 30 civilians who were resting after harvesting pine nuts.

Forty people were also injured in the attack on Wednesday night which struck farmers and labourers who had just finished their day’s work at the mountainous Wazir Tangi in eastern Nangarhar province, three Afghan officials told Reuters.

“The workers had lit a bonfire and were sitting together when a drone targeted them,” tribal elder Malik Rahat Gul told Reuters by telephone from Wazir Tangi.

Afghanistan’s defence ministry and a senior US official in Kabul confirmed the drone strike, but did not share details of civilian casualties.

“US forces conducted a drone strike against Da’esh [Isis] terrorists in Nangarhar,” said Col Sonny Leggett, a spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan. “We are aware of allegations of the death of non-combatants and are working with local officials to determine the facts.”

Meanwhile, a Taliban car bomb killed and wounded dozens of people in southern Afghanistan on Thursday, as the insurgents kept up military pressure after the collapse of negotiations with the US and ahead of national elections.

The militant group, fighting to expel foreign forces from the country, said they were targeting a building in the provincial capital Qalat that houses the local offices of the country’s intelligence agency. But the vehicle blew up near the gate of the hospital, flattening the facility.

Images from the scene showed a parking lot strewn with rubble and ambulances and a sedan crumpled by the force of the blast, which left 22 people, including two policemen, dead and 95 others injured, according to Attahullah Haqbayan, head of the provincial council.

Violence appears to be escalating in the run-up to presidential elections, twice postponed and now scheduled for Sept 28. Taliban pledged last month to disrupt what they called a “sham” vote, a reference to what they view as the illegitimate Kabul administration overseeing it.

A Taliban bombing Tuesday near a police training center in Parwan province where President Ashraf Ghani was holding a campaign rally killed at least 26 people and wounded a further 42. The president wasn’t hurt. Less than two hours later, a further 22 people were killed in a suicide bombing less than a half-mile from the US Embassy in Kabul.

Insurgents have also attacked power-transmission lines in the north of the country, cutting power in the capital for hours at a time.

After his campaign rally was bombed, Ghani, who is seeking a second, five-year term, said the militants were demonstrating that they “have no will or desire for peace and stability in Afghanistan, and all of their actions are nothing but deception.”

In a separate development, the United States on Thursday accused Afghanistan’s government of failing to fight corruption and cut more than $160 million in direct funding, little over a week before the country’s elections.

“We stand against those who exploit their positions of power and influence to deprive the Afghan people of the benefits of foreign assistance and a more prosperous future,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

Pompeo said that the United States was suspending work with the Afghan body in charge of monitoring corruption as it is “incapable of being a partner”.

“We expect the Afghan government to demonstrate a clear commitment to fight corruption, to serve the Afghan people and to maintain their trust,” he said. “Afghan leaders who fail to meet this standard should be held accountable.”

Pompeo said the United States was taking back $100 million committed for a major energy project, saying that Washington would instead fund it directly rather than sending the money to Afghan authorities.

He also said the United States would withhold $60 million in planned assistance to Afghanistan’s procurement authority.