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Central & South Asia

Taliban 'kill US troops' after peace moves

Group claims responsibility for attack in Afghanistan, hours after Washington said it would start direct talks.

Last Modified: 19 Jun 2013 06:20
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The Taliban opened a political office in the Qatari capital on Tuesday to facilitate peace talks [AFP]

At least four US soldiers have been killed in an attack on Bagram air base in Afghanistan, hours after Washington said its officials would meet the Afghan armed group for talks.

The Taliban on Wednesday claimed responsibility for the attack..

"Last night two big rockets were launched at Bagram (air base) which hit the target. Four soldiers are dead and six others are wounded. The rockets caused a major fire," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP news agency by telephone.

The US is cautiously optimistic of the Taliban peace talks

Bagram is a sprawling base about 47km north of Kabul that serves as a major hub for US aircraft.

The US military presence in Afghanistan is roughly 66,000 troops, after having reached a peak of about 100,000 forces.

Just hours before the attack, Washington announced its officials would meet Taliban representatives in Doha on Thursday, raising hopes for a negotiated peace after 12 years of bloody and costly war between US-led forces and the armed group.

The Taliban opened an office in the Qatari capital earlier on Tuesday and said it wanted a political solution that would bring about a just government and end foreign occupation of Afghanistan.

US officials cautioned that the peace process would likely be messy and has no guarantee of success.

"It's going to be a long, hard process if indeed it advances significantly at all," a senior US official said.

The Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai also said it was sending a team to Doha and a senior official said the Taliban was willing to consider talks. But the armed group made no immediate comment on the claim.

The Taliban had earlier refused such talks, calling Karzai and his government puppets of the West.

Nonetheless, the diplomatic announcements represented the first signs of optimism in Afghan peace efforts for many months, and come as the US-led war effort reaches a critical juncture.

Meanwhile, the NATO command in Kabul on Tuesday completed handing over lead security responsibility to Afghan government forces across the country.

NATO plans to end all combat operations in Afghanistan by December 2014.

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Source:
Agencies
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