Kabul bomb attack kills women, children; lawmaker wounded

Car bombing in Afghan capital targeting lawmaker comes amid sharp rise in violence as gov’t and Taliban hold talks aimed at ending war.

An Afghan woman cries at the site of a bomb blast after she heard her relative was among the victims, in Kabul [Omar Sobhani/Reuters]

A car bomb in the Afghan capital Kabul has killed at least nine people and wounded more than 15, including a member of parliament.

The death toll from Sunday’s attack could rise, interior ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said, adding that the dead included women, children and the elderly.

“The terrorists have carried out a terrorist attack in Kabul city,” he said.

The attack happened while the convoy of lawmaker Khan Mohammad Wardak was passing through an intersection in Kabul’s Khoshal Khan neighbourhood. The blast set afire surrounding civilian vehicles, as well as damaging nearby buildings and shops.

An Afghan man looks through a glass window damaged after a bombing attack in Kabul [Rahmat Gul/AP Photo]

A security source said a car bomb had detonated.

“It was a powerful explosion that has caused a lot of damage to houses in the vicinity,” the source said.

Television footage showed at least two cars on fire, with billowing plumes of thick black smoke. No group has claimed responsibility for the incident so far.

Afghanistan has seen a sharp rise in violence, particularly bombings, in recent weeks as the Afghan government and Taliban hold talks to find an end to the country’s almost 20-year-long war.

Separate bombings were also reported on Sunday in the provinces of Logar, Nangarhar, Helmand and Badakhshan, in which a number of civilians and security forces members were killed and injured.

On Friday, a suspected rickshaw bomb blast killed at least 15 civilians, including 11 children, in central Ghazni province.

The Afghan interior ministry in a statement said that the Taliban had killed 487 civilians and injured 1,049 others by carrying out 35 suicide attacks and 507 blasts in across the country over the past three months.

The ISIL (ISIS) armed group has claimed responsibility for multiple attacks in Kabul in recent months, including on educational institutions, that killed 50 people, mostly students.

ISIL also claimed responsibility for rocket attacks on the main US base in Afghanistan on Saturday. There were no casualties in that assault, according to NATO and provincial officials.

A NATO official confirmed the attack and said initial reports indicated that the airfield was not damaged.

Afghan policemen inspect at the site of a blast in Kabul [Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]

Peace talks

The Afghan government and the Taliban have been holding peace talks aimed at ending decades of war for more than two months – but the country’s brutal conflict continues.

The talks, which were launched in September in Qatar following a landmark US-Taliban agreement reached in February, have been suspended and will resume on January 5.

The US agreed to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for security guarantees and a commitment from the Taliban to hold talks with the Kabul government.

However, despite the talks, the Afghan capital has been hit by a wave of deadly violence in recent months.

Earlier this week, Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, held an unannounced meeting with Taliban leaders in Doha to discuss military aspects of last February’s US-Taliban agreement.

The agreement, signed in Qatar where the Taliban maintain a political office, was intended to set the stage for direct peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

After talks with the Taliban, Milley flew to Kabul to consult with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. He said he emphasised to both parties the need to rapidly reduce levels of violence across the country.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies