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Taliban bomb kills 14, wounds 145, despite hopes for Afghan pact

Taliban bomb kills 14, wounds 145, despite hopes for Afghan pact
Damaged police vehicles are seen at the site of a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 7, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail -
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MOHAMMAD ISMAIL(Reuters)
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By Abdul Qadir Sediqi

KABUL (Reuters) – A Taliban suicide bomber killed 14 people and wounded 145 in the Afghan capital Kabul on Wednesday, an attack the government said raised questions about the militants’ commitment to peace despite an expected deal with the United States.

There has been no let-up in violence in Afghanistan even though the Taliban and the United States appear close to a historic pact for U.S. troops to withdraw in exchange for a Taliban promise that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for international terrorism.

The truck bomb in the west of the capital during the morning rush hour sent a huge cloud of grey smoke into the sky. The Taliban said one of their suicide bombers had attacked a “recruitment centre”.

Most of the dead and wounded were civilians, including women and children, government officials said.

“Continued Taliban attacks indicate that they have no commitment to peace,” Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, told a news conference.

The U.S. envoy negotiating with the Taliban to end America’s longest war condemned the blast. “Indiscriminate attacks and intentional injury to civilians are never warranted,” the envoy, Zalmay Khalizad, said in a post on Twitter.

“The focus should be on immediately reducing violence as we move closer to intra-Afghan negotiations that will produce a political roadmap and a permanent ceasefire.”

President Donald Trump has announced his aim to end a war launched in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

THREATAGAINSTELECTION

Khalizad began his negotiations late last year in Qatar but the talking has not brought a reduction in the violence. And the violence has had virtually no impact on the talks.

Both sides reported significant progress this week in their efforts to forge a pact.

About 20,000 foreign troops, most of them American, are in Afghanistan as part of a U.S.-led NATO mission to train, assist and advise Afghan forces. Some U.S. forces carry out counter-terrorism operations

A Taliban promise to talk peace with the U.S.-backed government is likely be part of any agreement with the United States, but many Afghan government officials fear their war with the Taliban will not end.

The militants control more territory than at any point since the United States bombed them out of power in 2001 and the Afghan security forces have been suffering heavy casualties.

Wednesday’s suicide attack came a day after the Taliban called for a boycott of the planned Sept. 28 presidential election and threatened to attack election rallies.

The bomb exploded when the truck carrying it was stopped at a checkpoint outside the police station. It caused extensive damage with facades blown off buildings and a jumble of rubble and vehicles strewn around a huge crater.

Deputy Interior Minister Khoshal Sadat said four of the 14 people killed were policemen and the rest were civilians while 92 of the 145 wounded were civilians.

Separately, security forces conducted raids on two Islamic State hideouts in Kabul overnight, killing at least two militants and seizing a large quantity of explosives and bomb-making equipment, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) said. Three members of the security forces were also killed, an agency spokesman said.

(Editional reporting by Orooj Hakimi; Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Paul Tait and Mark Heinrich)

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