Taliban car bomber targets NATO convoy near Kabul airport

Kabul, Dec 28: A Taliban bomber detonated an explosives-packed vehicle near Kabul airport today, killing one civilian in an attack targeting a NATO convoy the day after Pakistan's army chief visited the city to try to revive peace talks.

At least 33 others, many of them children, were wounded in the assault, which occurred as the security situation worsens in Afghanistan with the Taliban ramping up their nationwide offensive.


The explosion, which left wreckage of mangled and smouldering vehicles, comes despite a renewed international push to jumpstart stalled negotiations with the insurgents.

"The bombing left one person dead and 33 others wounded," an Afghan health ministry spokesman told AFP.

"Among the wounded were 18 children and four women."

Officials said the target of the powerful blast, which blew out windows of a local bakery, appeared to be a NATO convoy that passed through the area. In a brief statement, the international military coalition ruled out any NATO fatalities.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said they were behind the attack on a foreign convoy, claiming that "several invading forces were killed and wounded". The Taliban are known to exaggerate battlefield claims.

The attack comes a day after Pakistan's powerful army chief General Raheel Sharif visited Kabul to try to prepare the ground for fresh peace talks with the Taliban.

"Both sides agreed that the first round of dialogue between Afghanistan, Pakistan, US and China will be held in January to lay out a comprehensive roadmap for peace," the Afghan presidential palace said in a statement.

Asim Bajwa, a Pakistani military spokesman, said on Twitter that the talks would be held in the first week of January but did not disclose the venue. There was no immediate reaction from the Taliban to the announcement of the four-party talks.

Pakistan -- the Taliban's historic backers -- hosted a milestone first round of talks in July but the negotiations stalled when the insurgents belatedly confirmed the death of longtime leader Mullah Omar.

Afghanistan sees the support of Pakistan as vital to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. But despite the growing bonhomie with Islamabad, analysts caution that any substantive talks are still a long way off.

Afghan forces are currently battling to push out Taliban insurgents who seized large swathes of the key opium-rich district of Sangin in the southern province of Helmand.

Observers say the intensifying insurgency highlights a push by the insurgents to make more military gains in a bid to achieve greater concessions during talks. The offensive has prompted the first British deployment to the volatile province in 14 months.


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