Afghan National Army soldiers keep watch at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul. (Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

Two separate terrorist attacks killed at least 27 people and wounded dozens Saturday in Afghanistan, and created a powerful explosion that ended a three-week lull in major violence here in the capital.

The first attack occurred Saturday morning in Kunar province in eastern Afghanistan, where a suicide bomber approached a tribal Pashtun elder who was walking outdoors.

The attack killed the man, who had been leading a local uprising against Taliban insurgents, along with 11 bystanders. Three dozen others were injured.

The second attack occurred Saturday afternoon when an explosion tore through a busy street near the gate of the Defense Ministry headquarters in Kabul.

Some reports stated that the suicide bomber targeted a bus carrying Afghan soldiers. In a statement, the Defense Ministry confirmed that the attack targeted Afghan army “personnel” but declined to elaborate further.

But Afghan defense officials said 15 people were killed in the attack, including three army officers, three sergeants and five civilian ministry employees. Four other civilians were also killed.

Thirty-one other people, including nine army officers, were injured.

In a statement, the Taliban asserted responsibility for the attack.

The explosion could be heard across Kabul and created a thick cloud of smoke that hovered over the Defense Ministry, which overlooks the Kabul River.

It was the first major bombing in Kabul since Feb. 1, when more than a dozen people were killed in a suicide attack at a police recruiting center.

The latest violence, which occurred on an unusually warm winter day here, came as Afghan security forces were preparing for what is expected to be another year of intense fighting. The Taliban traditionally launches its spring offensive in March or April after snow melts from the mountain passes.

But U.S. and Afghan leaders are also hoping to resume peace talks to try to end the 15-year insurgency.

Last week, diplomats from the United States, Afghanistan, Pakistan and China invited Taliban leaders to travel to Islamabad, Pakistan, in early March to meet face-to-face with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government.

It remains unclear, however, which factions of the insurgency will attend the meeting. And even if talks begin, analysts have warned that the Taliban could increase the tempo of attacks to try to strengthen its negotiating position.

Tim Craig contributed to this report.