Afghan president names peace team to lead negotiations with militants on day Taliban bomb kills 10 in Kabul
A Taliban bomb attack on a British security company in Kabul killed at least 10 people and wounded 19 yesterday.
And Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told a UN-sponsored conference of plans to seek a peace agreement with the militant group.
Interior Minister spokesman Najib Danish said a suicide bomber blew himself up, then other insurgents started a gun battle with troops in the area. The Taliban claimed the attack.
Basir Mujahid, spokesman for the Kabul police chief, said the target of the attack was British security company G4S. He said the company trained Afghan security forces.
In another attack, in the Taimani area of Kabul, gunmen attacked the home of Amrullah Saleh, Afghanistan’s former intelligence chief and head of the Green Party movement.
Mr Saleh told The National that he was with Rahmatullah Nabil, a former director of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security, when the three gunmen launched the assault.
His guards repelled the attack and neither man was harmed.
Before the attacks, Mr Ghani announced a 12-person team for peace talks with the Taliban, as the UN renewed calls for direct negotiations between Kabul and the militants.
The Afghan government, western diplomats and UN officials have in recent weeks raised hopes of finally reaching a deal to end the Taliban’s 17-year insurgency.
At an international conference in Geneva, Mr Ghani said the team would be led by Presidential Chief of Staff Abdul Salam Rahimi.
Mr Rahimi, a former humanitarian worker and ex-deputy Afghan finance minister, is one of Mr Ghani’s closest aides.
Meanwhile, Afghan officials say air strikes killed 30 civilians in the southern province of Helmand late on Tuesday as Nato forces increased attacks to bring the Taliban to talks.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the attack on the G4S compound was a response to the Helmand strikes.
American air strikes killed at least 30 Afghan civilians in the southern province of Helmand, officials said yesterday.
The strikes reportedly took place during a firefight between Afghan special forces – who were with US military advisers – and Taliban militants late on Tuesday.
Washington and allied forces have increased air missions in an attempt to drive the Taliban into peace talks to end the 17year war.
Helmand provincial governor Mohammad Yasin Khan said troops had called in air strikes against Taliban fighters in Garmsir, which resulted in the deaths of civilians and militants. Ataullah Afghan, head of Helmand provincial council, said that women and children were among those killed. The Nato-led forces said Afghan troops and US advisers came under fire from Taliban machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades.
“At the time of the strike, the ground force was unaware of any civilians in or around the compound,” a force spokeswoman said. “They knew only that the Taliban was using the building as a fighting position.
“We investigate every credible allegation of error and review every mission to learn, adapt and improve.”
The civilian death toll in air strikes is growing and underlines the severity of the Afghan war even as moves to begin peace talks have picked up, with contact between US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives.
A Taliban delegation met Mr Khalilzad in Doha in October and this month to discuss an end to the Afghan conflict. Mr Khalilzad has said he is “cautiously optimistic” for an end to the fighting.
The UN said last month that the number of civilian casualties from air strikes in the first nine months of the year was already higher than in any entire year since at least 2009.
A boy in hospital in Afghanistan where the UN says civilian casualties have increased as a result of more air strikes