Taliban blast in Kabul claims 16 lives, leaves 119 wounded
KABUL - A Taliban vehicle bomb late on Monday close to a housing compound used by international organisations in the Afghan capital Kabul killed at least 16 people and wounded 119, officials said as emergency workers began cleanup operations.
The blast, which shook buildings several kilometres away, came just as Zalmay Khalilzad, the special U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan was outlining details of a draft accord with the insurgent movement in a television interview.
Following major Taliban attacks on two northern cities over the weekend, the bombing in a heavily populated area of the capital added to questions around the peace deal reached between U.S. and Taliban negotiators in the Qatari capital Doha.
Interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said the blast was caused by a tractor packed with explosives close to Green Village, a residential compound in eastern Kabul used by foreign staff of international groups including aid organizations.
He said around 400 foreign nationals were evacuated from the heavily protected site, located off a major road in an area of houses and shops.
Armed attackers, who planned to follow up the blast, were killed by security forces, he said.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the attack had destroyed rooms and offices of "invaders".
"Enemy claims of civilian losses are false as no civilians were allowed close to the site of the attack," he said in a tweet.
Khalilzad, a veteran Afghan-born diplomat who has been leading U.S. negotiations, said almost 5,000 U.S. troops would be pulled out and five bases closed in exchange for Taliban guarantees that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for militant attacks on the United States and its allies.
But the deal did not include a formal ceasefire and Monday's attacks, as well as major assaults on the northern cities of Kunduz and Pul-e Khumri, underlined doubts about whether it would lead to an end to violence.Reuters