1 killed as Kabul car bomb targets foreign forces

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A suicide car bomb targeting a foreign forces convoy rocked eastern Kabul today, killing at least one civilian and injuring nine just days after Afghanistan unveiled plans for Taliban peace talks, the interior ministry said. Extensive damage to the facades of nearby houses could be seen with debris scattered on pavements as witnesses reported a strong explosion.

Security forces rushed to the scene as passers-by helped move the wounded, with witnesses complaining to AFP that ambulances took around half an hour to arrive. A horse was also badly injured in the blast and could be seen stumbling at the scene -- its head, belly and legs burnt -- before it was finally taken pity on and killed on the spot with a knife, an AFP reporter at the scene said. "Unfortunately around 9:00 am, a car bombing took place in (the) Qabil Bay area of Kabul. The target of the attack was a foreign forces convoy," ministry spokesman Najib Danish told AFP, adding that police are investigating.

NATO's Resolute Support mission in Kabul told AFP it was checking if there had been any foreign casualties in the blast. A health ministry spokesman confirmed that one person was killed and at least nine injured, all civilians. The one killed was a child, a security source and witnesses at the scene told AFP, with the security source adding that up to 12 people had been injured.

No group immediately claimed the attack, which is the latest to hit Kabul, one of the deadliest places in Afghanistan for civilians as both the Taliban and the expanding Islamic State group step up their assaults on the city. The bombing comes just two days after Afghan president Ashraf Ghani unveiled a plan for peace talks with the Taliban, including a proposal to eventually recognise them as a political party.

Ghani revealed his plans in a speech during international peace talks in Kabul this week that went better than expected, with officials in Washington daring to hold out hope that the longest war in US history may be heading to a negotiated settlement. US ambassador in Kabul John R Bass hailed Ghani's "very courageous stand" and his "commitment to pursue a peaceful settlement through talks" after more than 16 years of conflict, as officials said the onus was now on the Taliban to respond.

Before Ghani's speech, the militants had called for direct talks with the US. They have not yet offered a full response to the president's proposal, but the apparent openness to negotiations on both sides has sparked cautious optimism. More than 16,000 foreign troops are deployed in Afghanistan under the NATO mandate, mostly Americans who supervise Afghan forces and conduct counter-terrorism operations.

Since November, the US military has increased air raids against Taliban positions, training camps and heroin laboratories, which are an important source of revenue for the group. Despite the optimism, Kabul remains on high alert, fearing further violence. American officials are also braced for more fighting in the spring. Since mid-January, militants have stormed a luxury hotel, bombed a crowded street, raided a military compound and launched a suicide attack during morning rush hour in the capital, killing more than 130 people.

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