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Bomb blast rocks Kabul on first day of new year

A blast has occurred in a residential neighborhood of the Afghan capital where officials and expatriates reside. The attack comes as the Afghan government pushes for peace talks with a resurgent Taliban militant group.

A bomb was detonated at a popular restaurant often frequented by foreigners in the Afghan capital of Kabul.

"The explosion happened in Qala-e-Fathullah neighborhood of Kabul city. Apparently a restaurant has been attacked," a spokesman for the interior ministry told AFP news agency.

"Police have cordoned off the area," the spokesman added.

Media reports suggest that there may be casualties, although authorities have yet to provide further details on the attack. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

Meanwhile, the Afghan government is pushing for peace talks with the Taliban militant group, which made surprising gains in 2015.

On January 11, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the US and China are set to begin talks aimed at establishing a comprehensive roadmap for peace, according to officials.

Pakistan, which is said to have political sway over the militant group, held historic talks in July 2015. However, they broke down after the Taliban confirmed the death of their enigmatic leader Mullah Omar.

Friday's attack comes less than a week after the Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide attack near Kabul's airport that left at least one person dead and 33 others wounded.

Afghan forces are also struggling to contain elements of the "Islamic State" militant group, which made inroads into the Asian country in 2015.

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lw/jil (AFP, Reuters)

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