Seven die in Kabul bombing despite prisoner-swap deal
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.
Buildings near by were damaged when the car bomb struck a convoy of government vehicles north of Kabul airport