Seven die in Kabul bomb­ing de­spite pris­oner-swap deal

The National - News - - NEWS | WORLD - Agence France-Presse

At least seven peo­ple died and seven were wounded when a car bomb went off dur­ing morn­ing rush hour in Kabul yes­ter­day.

Nas­rat Rahimi, an In­te­rior Min­istry spokesman, said the bomb ex­ploded in a neigh­bour­hood north of Kabul air­port.

He said the dead were all civil­ians.

A source at the min­istry said the blast was set off by a sui­cide bomber in a car, and that a con­voy of gov­ern­ment ve­hi­cles was the tar­get.

There was no im­me­di­ate claim of re­spon­si­bil­ity. The Tal­iban and ISIS are ac­tive in Kabul, which is one of the dead­li­est places in the wartorn coun­try for civil­ians.

The blast came one day af­ter Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani an­nounced that Kabul would re­lease three high-rank­ing Tal­iban pris­on­ers in an ap­par­ent pris­oner swap for west­ern hostages who were kid­napped by the in­sur­gents in 2016.

The three Tal­iban pris­on­ers in­clude Anas Haqqani, who was seized in 2014 and whose older brother is the Tal­iban’s deputy leader and head of the Haqqani net­work, a no­to­ri­ous af­fil­i­ate.

Mr Ghani did not spec­ify the fate of the west­ern hostages – an Aus­tralian and an Amer­i­can, both pro­fes­sors at the Amer­i­can Univer­sity in Kabul – and it was not clear when or where they would be freed.

The two, US cit­i­zen Kevin King and Aus­tralian Ti­mothy Weeks, were kid­napped in Au­gust 2016 in Kabul.

They later ap­peared look­ing hag­gard in a Tal­iban hostage

video, with the in­sur­gents claim­ing that Mr King was in poor health.

Mr Ghani said that “their health has been de­te­ri­o­rat­ing while in the cus­tody of the ter­ror­ists”.

He said that he hoped the de­ci­sion would help pave the way for the start of un­of­fi­cial di­rect talks be­tween his gov­ern­ment and the Tal­iban, who have long re­fused to ne­go­ti­ate with Kabul.

Over the past year, the US and the Tal­iban have been hold­ing di­rect talks on a deal that would bring the in­sur­gents to the ta­ble for peace talks with the Afghan gov­ern­ment, and al­low the US to be­gin with­draw­ing troops.

But US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump abruptly ended the ne­go­ti­a­tions in Septem­ber, cit­ing con­tin­ued Tal­iban vi­o­lence.

Most ex­perts agree there is no mil­i­tary so­lu­tion in Afghanista­n and that talks will have to restart again even­tu­ally. Un­til then, civil­ians are pay­ing a dis­pro­por­tion­ate price in the long-run­ning war.

Last month, the United Na­tions re­leased a re­port say­ing an unpreceden­ted num­ber of civil­ians were killed or wounded in Afghanista­n be­tween July and Septem­ber this year.

The fig­ures – 1,174 deaths and 3,139 in­jured from July 1 un­til Septem­ber 30 – are a 42 per cent in­crease on the same pe­riod last year.

The UN laid most of the blame on “anti-gov­ern­ment el­e­ments” who have been wag­ing war for more than 18 years.

EPA

Build­ings near by were dam­aged when the car bomb struck a con­voy of gov­ern­ment ve­hi­cles north of Kabul air­port

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