AFP/ PTI

Taliban claim Kabul truck bomb attack, warn more to follow

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Kabul, Jan 15 :  The Taliban on Tuesday claimed responsibility for a powerful truck bomb in Kabul that ripped through surrounding neighbourhoods, killing at least four people including an Indian national, and wounding more than 100 in the latest assault on the Afghan capital.

In a grim message, the militants also vowed to carry out more attacks in the city in direct response to the recent appointment of former spymaster and anti-Taliban veteran Amrullah Saleh as interior minister.

Monday evening's explosion near the heavily fortified Green Village foreign compound shook Kabul and comes as diplomats ramp up efforts to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan, which by some estimates was the world's deadliest conflict in 2018.

The force of the blast was felt across the sprawling city, initially causing confusion about the exact location of the attack. It shattered the windows of surrounding houses and shops.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told journalists on WhatsApp that four attackers blew up an explosives-packed truck before entering Green Village and "killing many" foreigners.

Four people, including three guards and one civilian, have been confirmed dead and 113 wounded, the health ministry said. An Indian national was among those killed, India's foreign ministry said in a statement.

Kabul police spokesman Basir Mujahid told AFP that most of the victims were Afghan civilians.

"Seven or eight people have been injured in every house around here including myself," said resident Mohammad Aref.

"When I came out, the street was full of bodies of the dead and injured." Until recently some UN staff had lived and worked at Green Village, which is heavily protected by cement blast walls.

But interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish said earlier the compound was now largely empty and "only a number of guards" were left.

A much bigger UN compound along with Afghanistan's customs office and headquarters for the Independent Election Commission are also nearby.

It is the second Taliban-claimed attack on a foreign compound in Kabul in recent months.

In late November a vehicle bomb exploded outside the compound of British security firm G4S, killing at least 10 people. Five G4S employees were among the dead.

That was followed by a suicide and gun attack on a government compound in Kabul on December 24 that killed at least 43 people, making it one of the deadliest assaults on the city last year.

The latest bombing comes as US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad visits the region for further meetings aimed at bringing an end to the war in Afghanistan.

Khalilzad, who met Taliban representatives last month in Abu Dhabi, is travelling to Afghanistan as well as China, India and Pakistan on the trip lasting through January 21.

Afghan officials suggested the latest attack appeared to be an attempt to derail the burgeoning peace process, vowing the bombing would not go unanswered.

"As we are trying to reach a regional consensus on peace, the enemy is trying to sabotage it," said National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib on social media.

"I strongly condemn this attack and promise I will seriously investigate and avenge it," he added.

Last month's leaking of US President Donald Trump's plan to slash troop numbers in Afghanistan, however, has threatened to derail the efforts and alarmed many Afghans who fear a return to oppressive Taliban rule.

Diplomats in Kabul have long said any negotiations with the militants would likely happen as fighting continued on the battlefield -- cold comfort for Afghan civilians who have long borne the brunt of the war.

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