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Suicide bomber strikes Kabul’s Shiite area, casualties reported

The attack comes amid growing pressure on the Taliban to take up an offer for direct talks on peace
AFP

Kabul (AFP) – A suicide bomber on foot blew himself up in Kabul’s Shiite area on Friday, killing at least seven people, officials said, in the latest attack in the Afghan capital.

“In the explosion seven were martyred and seven were wounded,” interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish wrote on Facebook.

One policeman was among those killed in the blast, which happened near a gathering to mark the 23rd anniversary of the death of Abdul Ali Mazari — a prominent former leader of the mainly Shiite Hazara ethnic community who was killed by the Taliban.

Kabul police chief Mohammad Daud Amin told Tolo News that the bomber detonated his explosive device at a checkpoint “after being identified by police”.

“The bomber failed to get inside to target the gathering,” Amin said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack but it comes amid growing pressure on the Taliban to take up an offer by the Afghan government for direct talks on peace.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at an international conference in Kabul last week unveiled a plan to open talks with the insurgents, including eventually recognising them as a political party.

In return, Ghani said the militants should officially recognise the Afghan government and constitution, a perennial sticking point in past attempts to open talks.

“The offer of negotiation is on the table,” UN envoy to Afghanistan Tadamichi Yamamoto told a Security Council meeting on Thursday to mark the annual renewal of the UN mission to the war-torn country.

The United States has also called on the insurgents to consider the offer of peace talks.

While Western officials have hailed Ghani’s offer as a positive step, they have told AFP that it is far too early to tell if it will lead anywhere.

Before Ghani’s speech, the militants had called for direct talks with the US.

Friday’s attack comes a week after a car bomb detonated near a passing Australian embassy convoy in the city’s east that killed at least one child and wounded several other people.

Kabul is one of the deadliest places in Afghanistan for civilians as both the Taliban and the expanding Islamic State group step up their assaults on the city.

Despite the cautious optimism for a peace deal, Kabul remains on high alert, fearing further violence. 

American officials are also braced for more fighting in the spring after an unusually violent winter when the conflict traditionally eases.

Since mid-January, militants have stormed a luxury hotel, bombed a crowded street, raided a military compound and launched a suicide attack during morning rush hour in the capital, killing more than 130 people.

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