Taliban warns US not to try to destabilise govt after terror attack

DOHA • The Taliban has warned Washington not to "destabilise" the regime during their first face-to-face talks since the US withdrawal, as a deadly sectarian bombing raised further questions about the group's grip on power.

As mourners in Afghanistan buried their dead from an attack on a Shi'ite mosque that killed 62, a Taliban delegation told US officials in Doha that any weakening of their government could cause "problems for the people".

Scores more worshippers were wounded in Friday's blast in Kunduz, which was claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group - which appears to be trying to further shake Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover.

"We clearly told them that trying to destabilise the government in Afghanistan is good for no one," Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi told the Afghan state news agency Bakhtar after the talks in the Qatari capital.

"Good relations with Afghanistan are good for everyone. Nothing should be done to weaken the existing government in Afghanistan which can lead to problems for the people," he said.

The Taliban is seeking international recognition, as well as assistance to avoid a humanitarian disaster and ease Afghanistan's economic crisis.

A State Department official said the US delegation would press the Taliban to ensure terrorists do not create a base for attacks in the country. It would also pressure Afghanistan's new rulers to form an inclusive government and to respect the rights of women and girls, the official said, stressing the meeting did not indicate Washington recognised Taliban rule.

"We remain clear that any legitimacy must be earned through the Taliban's own actions," he said.

As the two-day talks began, Kunduz counted the cost of the bloodiest assault since US forces left the country in August.

A gravedigger in the Shi'ite cemetery overlooking the city told AFP they had handled 62 bodies, and local reports suggested the final toll could be up to 100.

The regional branch of ISIS, known as Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K), has repeatedly targeted Shi'ites in Afghanistan. It is a Sunni Islamist group like the Taliban, but the two are bitter rivals.

IS-K said the attack was carried out by a Uighur suicide bomber who had "detonated an explosive vest amid a crowd" of Shi'ite worshippers.

The attack was met with broad international condemnation, with UN chief Antonio Guterres calling for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. Mr Guterres "condemns in the strongest terms today's horrific attack", the third against a religious institution in Afghanistan in a week, his spokesman said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2021, with the headline 'Taliban warns US not to try to destabilise govt after terror attack'. Subscribe