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Deadly bomb blast targets Afghan vice president

People inspect the scene of an explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, 09 September 2020Image copyright

Image caption

The bombing came as Afghan officials and the Taliban prepared to begin talks

At least 10 people have been killed in a roadside bomb attack in the Afghan capital Kabul that targeted the first vice president, Amrullah Saleh.

Mr Saleh, a former head of the Afghan intelligence services, escaped with slight burns on his face and hand.

The bombing came as Afghan officials and the Taliban prepared to begin their first formal talks.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a tweet that the militant group was not responsible for the blast.

Footage filmed shortly after the explosion showed a large plume of black smoke rising from the scene.

Tareq Arain, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s interior ministry, said the roadside bomb targeted Mr Saleh’s convoy as the official travelled to work. Mr Arain said 10 civilians who worked in the area were killed and 15 people, including one of Mr Saleh’s bodyguards, were wounded.

A witness to the explosion said he was driving past the location on the way to a clinic when the bomb detonated.

“I lost one of my brothers, and the other one is hurt,” the man told the Reuters news agency soon after the blast. “What kind of government is this? There’s no ambulance, and even the police haven’t arrived yet.”

Mr Saleh is known as a vocal opponent of the Taliban, and the former intelligence chief has survived several previous assassination attempts, including one last year that killed 20 people at his office. Speaking after the blast on Wednesday, he vowed to continue his political work.

The Afghan President Ashraf Ghani met Mr Saleh on Wednesday morning, after the attack.

“The terrorists and their foreign backers cannot undermine the people’s strong faith in peace, democracy and the bright future of our country,” Mr Ghani said in a statement.

A European Union delegation in Afghanistan condemned the attack, calling it a “desperate act by spoilers of peace efforts, who must be collectively confronted”.

Image copyright

Image caption

Amateur footage showed a large plume of black smoke rising from the scene

Afghan officials are expected to begin long delayed talks with the Taliban in the coming days in Doha, Qatar, in an attempt to reach a political reconciliation after years of bloodshed.

The Taliban signed a deal in February with the US to bring an end to 18 years of conflict between the two. The peace agreement put a stop to Taliban attacks on US forces but the militant group continued targeting the Afghan military and government.

But the Taliban did pledge in February not to launch attacks in urban areas, like the one in Kabul on Wednesday.

The so-called Islamic State group has also launched numerous high-profile attacks in Afghanistan in recent years. In August the group claimed responsibility for an operation against a prison in the eastern city of Jalalabad which left 29 people dead and allowed hundreds of inmates to escape.

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