Thursday, 14 November, 2019

Afghanistan: Security forces battle Taliban militants in Kabul, many feared dead

At least 68 people in injured as blast rocks Kabul’s diplomatic district Kabul, Afghanistan bomb blast: Militants battle security forces in nearby building
Patty Aguilar | 02 July, 2019, 10:17

The US special peace envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad has been holding a seventh round of peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar, aimed at bringing the 18-year-old war to an end.

Mohammad Karim, a police official in the area of the attack, said a auto bomb exploded outside a Defense Ministry building.

Security forces waged an eight-hour gun battle with insurgents before the attack was neutralized.

Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, while conceding that civilians were hurt by the vehicle blast, said the target of militants was the military facility.

Fifty-one children in two schools near the blast site were hurt by flying glass, said Education Ministry spokeswoman Nooria Nazhat.

Washington accelerated attempts to find a negotiated end to America's longest war with the appointment last September of Khalilzad, who was a special presidential representative to Afghanistan and later USA ambassador in Kabul in the years immediately following the 2001 US -led invasion that ousted the Taliban.

Health Ministry spokesman Wahidullah Mayar told RFE/RL that one person died in the violence, while 93 injured people, including nine children, were taken to hospitals for treatment.

Monday's blast sent a huge plume of black smoke over the city.

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Afghanistan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah said the attack puts on display the Taliban's "inherent criminal nature".

The logistics center is in an area that houses a number of government offices and a local TV station.

"I was terrified", Shamshad anchor Hashmat Stanikzai told AFP, adding that they had been filming a live programme when the blast occurred.

Abdullah said the country's "heroic" security forces will continue to "pursue & punish" Taliban militants, whom he called "miscreants".

"We are working to rewrite the draft agreement and incorporate in it clauses that have been agreed upon", Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told The Associated Press during peace talks in Qatar with United States envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. There was no immediate confirmation if they would go ahead after the blast.

In return, the Taliban would guarantee the country would never again become a safe haven for violent extremist groups, as happened with Al-Qaeda before the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The talks, described by one USA official as a "make-or-break moment", have focused on issues ranging from counter-terrorism and withdrawal of foreign troops to an intra-Afghan dialogue and a comprehensive ceasefire.

A potential deal would see the US agree to withdraw its troops after more than 17 years in Afghanistan, igniting deep concerns among huge swathes of Afghans who fear the militants will return to some semblance of power.

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