At least 34 dead in Afghanistan blast

Jul 02, 2019, 00:35
At least 34 dead in Afghanistan blast

The attack comes two days after a U.S. special envoy began a seventh round of talks with the militant group in Qatar, aiming to bring an end to the 18-year war.

Shams Amini, a football federation spokesman, told AFP that the blast occurred near the federation's gates.

But, a Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said in a tweet on Monday that the group will engage in intra-Afghan talks once an agreement is sealed with the U.S. on troop withdrawal. The attack is an example of increasingly frequent "complex assaults" in which militants create chaos with an initial blast, then storm a sensitive building, which leads to an hours-long gun battle, extending the bloodshed. Witnesses heard gunfire and small explosions as the attack appeared to be continuing.

One Taliban member was arrested at the scene and about 200 people were rescued from the Defence Ministry building, the Interior Ministry said.

About 100 wounded people were taken to hospital, said health ministry spokesperson Wahidullah Mayar, but there was no immediate word of fatalities. The spokesman put the confirmed death toll at one, but ministry officials said at least 34 people were killed.

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Washington accelerated attempts to find a negotiated end to America's longest war with the appointment last September of Khalilzad, who was a special presidential representative to Afghanistan and later US ambassador in Kabul in the years immediately following the 2001 USA -led invasion that ousted the Taliban. Helicopter gunships flew over the site.

Afghanistan's chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, tweeted that the "terrorist" attack near the Afghan Football Federation building showed the "inherent criminal nature" of the group.

The Taliban spokesman said the target of the attack was a defence ministry logistics centre.

"Some of our colleagues are trapped inside, we have reports of some injuries".

"The latest attack by the Taliban has changed the entire context of our meeting, unease has crept in", said an official present in the room where negotiations are underway in Doha.

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Despite the spike in violence, there are hopes about the start of intra-Afghan talks within the next two weeks as the Foreign Affairs Ministry's spokesman Sibghatullah Ahmadi said on Sunday.

Officials from the United Nations office in Afghanistan gave blood to help the injured children and urged others to do the same. The group immediately claimed responsibility of the attack.

Both the Taliban and Afghan forces, backed by US troops, have intensified their attacks in recent months as part of an effort to have the upper hand at the negotiating table. Pakistan's foreign minister promised to support the peace process, while Mr Ghani praised Pakistan's role in the effort.

The group has so far refused to talk directly to the Afghan government in Kabul, calling it a puppet of the West, and has continued to carry out almost daily attacks across Afghanistan.

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