Taleban claims deadly car bomb attack in Kabul

KABUL (REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE) – An explosion in the Afghan capital Kabul on Saturday (March 17) killed at least two people and wounded several in an apparent attack on a foreign contractor company, officials said.

The Taleban claimed responsibility for the attack as the group comes under growing pressure to take up the Afghan government’s offer of peace talks.

“Around 9.10am this morning a suicide car bomb exploded in Police District Nine of Kabul,” interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish told AFP.

Two civilians were killed and three others were wounded in the attack, Danish said. The blast happened at a time when many people would have been driving to work.

Health ministry spokesman Wahid Majrooh told AFP at least four people had been wounded.

Deputy interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said the bomber was heading towards global security company G4S but “detonated himself before reaching the target”.

While the latest blast was relatively minor compared with others that have killed scores of people recently, the constant stream of attacks in Kabul has undermined confidence in the Western-backed government of President Ashraf Ghani.

The Taleban and its smaller rival, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group have been dialing up the pressure on Kabul, launching a series of devastating attacks in recent months.

The most recent was on March 9 when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a Shi’ite area of the city, killing at least nine people. ISIS claimed responsibility.

Earlier this week, General John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan, said security in Kabul would be “the main effort” for international powers helping Afghan defence and security forces.

So far the Taleban has given only a muted response to President Ashraf Ghani’s proposal last month, which also called for a ceasefire after which the group could become a political party.

Analysts said the Taleban leadership has been debating the merits of engaging with a government that the group has long viewed as illegitimate. But it appears to have few reasons to negotiate.

The Taleban has been resurgent since the withdrawal of US-led Nato combat troops at the end of 2014, taking back territory and devastating Afghanistan’s beleaguered security forces.

In October, insurgents controlled or influenced nearly half of Afghanistan’s districts – double the percentage in 2015, the US government’s office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said in January.

Over the same period, the watchdog said, the number of districts under Afghan government control or influence fell to its lowest level since December 2015.