Blast in Kabul as Taliban claim attack on minister’s compound US voices concern on Afghan civil war

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Kabul/Washington

An explosion near the office of Afghanistan’s main security agency wounded three people on Wednesday, hours after a bomb and gun attack on a minister’s compound brought surging Taliban violence to the capital.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the late Tuesday attack on the home of acting Defence Minister Bismillah Mohammadi.

Mohammadi survived the attack on his compound in a heavily fortified part of Kabul, but the violence was a stark illustration of the deterioration in security as US-led foreign forces complete their withdrawal and the Islamist insurgents seize swathes of territory.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said his group targeted the minister’s residence as an important meeting was underway there.

Government forces battled the attackers for more than four hours and the Ministry of Interior said at least eight civilians were killed and 20 wounded.

The blast on Wednesday near a facility of the National Directorate of Security wounded two civilians and a security official, police said.

An Afghan military spokesman said an emergency had been declared in Lashkar Gah and government forces were getting reinforcements and US air support. “Special forces have been sent to the area. They are in good morale,” armed forces spokesman General Ajmal Omar Shinwari told Reuters.

Meanwhile, the United States said on Tuesday that one of many concerns about Afghanistan is that it could spiral into civil war.

Since the United States announced plans in April to withdraw its troops with no conditions by Sept 11 after nearly 20 years of conflict, violence has escalated throughout the country as the Taliban seeks more territory.

Peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban negotiators started last year in the Qatari capital of Doha, but have not made any substantive progress.

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the Taliban saw “the utility of a negotiated solution, they are engaged in Doha.”

“If they seek to contravene what they have said, then they will be an international pariah … and the concern on the part of all of us, one of the many concerns is that the result will be civil war,” Price told reporters.

The Taliban and Afghan government are far apart in the Doha talks, with the insurgents demanding “the lion’s share of power” in any new government, US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said earlier on Tuesday.—Reuters

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