Afghan VP Amrullah Saleh escapes deadly bomb attack in Kabul

At least 10 killed in roadside explosion targeting the convoy of First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, officials say.

Afghan men carry an injured to a hospital after a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan September 9, 2020. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghan men carry an injured person to hospital after a blast in Kabul [Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]

A roadside bomb in Kabul targeted Afghan First Vice President Amrullah Saleh on Wednesday morning, his spokesman said, but he escaped the attack unharmed.

Initially, the interior ministry’s spokesman, Tariq Arian, said at least two civilians died but the death toll later rose to 10. The ministry said at least 15 people were wounded.

The Taliban, which has pledged not to launch attacks in urban areas under a deal with the United States, denied responsibility.

In a video posted on Facebook soon after the explosion, Saleh, with bandages on his left hand, said he had been travelling to his office when his convoy was attacked.

“I am fine but some of my guards have been wounded. My son, who was in the car with me, and I are both fine,” he said.

“I have some burns on my face and hand. The blast was strong.”

‘Vicious terrorist attempt failed’

Saleh, a former intelligence chief and an outspoken Taliban critic, has survived several assassination attempts, including one on his office last year ahead of presidential elections that killed 20 people.

“This vicious terrorist attempt has failed and Saleh survived today’s bombing in Kabul,” Saleh’s spokesman Razwan Murad said, without offering more details.

The roads close to the bombing were closed off.

Interior ministry spokesman Arian said the blast also ignited a huge fire in the area, a section of Kabul where shops sell gas cylinders for use in heating homes and cooking. He feared the casualty figures could rise further.

Journalist Naseer Rahin in Kabul told Al Jazeera there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, which comes just before long-awaited peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Qatar’s capital, Doha.

Afghan men carry an injured to a hospital after a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan
Afghan men carry an injured to a hospital after a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan [Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied the group was involved in any way, saying that “today’s explosion in Kabul has nothing to do with the Mujahedeen of the Islamic Emirate”, as the Taliban calls itself.

Officials and diplomats have warned that rising violence is sapping the trust needed for the success of talks aimed at ending an armed conflict that began when the Taliban was removed from power in a US-led invasion in late 2001.

Intra-Afghan talks

Washington has been ramping up pressure on both sides to get the talks under way. US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is in Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office, trying to get the negotiations started.

The negotiations, known as intra-Afghan talks, were envisaged as part of the peace deal the US signed with the Taliban in Qatar in February to end the country’s longest war. At the time, the talks were cast as Afghanistan’s best chance at peace after decades of conflict.

Kabul’s peace negotiation team is waiting in the Afghan capital to travel to the Qatari capital for the talks but delays have been relentless.

The US-Taliban deal allows for the withdrawal of American soldiers from Afghanistan. However, US troop pullout, which has already begun, does not hinge on the success of intra-Afghan talks but rather on commitments from the Taliban to fight against other armed groups – such as ISIL (or ISIS) – and to prevent Afghanistan from being a staging arena for attacks against the US and its allies.

Amrullah Saleh Afghan vice-president
Saleh, an outspoken Taliban critic, has survived several assassination attempts. He is one of the two vice presidents in the country [File: Omar Sobhani/Reuters]
Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies