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Afghanistan: Blast hits Kabul diplomatic area

Several civilians have been killed after a bombing near the US Embassy and NATO building in Kabul. This is the latest attack to rock the Afghan capital as the US and the Taliban negotiate a peace deal.

A car bomb rocked central Kabul on Thursday near an area housing the US Embassy and other diplomatic missions. The blast, caused by an explosives-laden bus, targeted a security checkpoint near NATO's Resolute Support Mission headquarters. 

"We confirm an explosion in the Shashdarak area" at about 10:10 am (05:40 GMT), said interior ministry spokesman, Nasrat Rahimi.

At least 10 civilians were reported killed, according to the spokesman. The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack.

Read more: Afghan war — What to expect from the US-Taliban Doha talks

The blast comes after a Taliban suicide bombing in eastern Kabul on Monday night, which killed at least 16 people and wounded more than 100, almost all of them local civilians.

The attacks are taking place even as Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy for Afghanistan, is visiting Kabul to brief the Afghan government about the status of his talks with the Taliban. 

The US and the Taliban have so far held nine rounds of negotiations to put an end to the 18-year-long conflict. Khalilzad presented the draft agreement reached between the US and the Taliban to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

The Taliban suicide bombing on Monday killed at least 16 people and wounded more than 100

The Taliban suicide bombing on Monday killed at least 16 people and wounded more than 100

Withdrawing troops?

The deal would see the US withdraw some 5,000 troops stationed at five bases across Afghanistan. 

Khalilzad said the troop reduction would occur within around four months of a final deal being approved — if the Taliban stick to their commitments, including reducing violence.

US President Donald Trump would still need to approve the deal, which was hammered out during the latest round of talks with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar.

Read more: Is Kunduz attack a Taliban tactic to influence Doha peace talks?

Despite ending their combat role in 2014, an estimated 20,000 US and NATO personnel remain in the war-ravaged country to train and support Afghan forces.

The Taliban have long demanded all foreign troops leave the country. They now control or hold sway over roughly half of Afghanistan and are at their strongest since their 2001 defeat by a US-led invasion in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

The militants have continued their bloody assaults even as their leaders meet US peace envoys in Doha.

Watch video 00:43

Taliban are negotiating with US – but what’s their plan?

sri/rt (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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