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10 civilians killed as Saleh escapes assassination attempt unscathed

AT News

KABUL: Afghanistan’s first vice president survived an assassination attempt with only light wounds after a bomb detonated near his traveling convoy in Kabul city on Wednesday morning. Taliban didn’t claim responsibility for the attack on Amrullah Saleh, which killed at least ten people and wounded a dozen others.

When a convoy carrying the vice president was passing Taimani square, explosives already planted in the area exploded killing ten civilians and wounding 15 including VP’s bodyguards, Ministry of Interior spokesman Tariq Arian said.

Saleh appeared in a video on Facebook soon after the bombing, saying his convoy was attacked when he was travelling to his office. He said he was slightly injured with some burns on face and left hand, citing that “the blast was strong”.

This is a second time Saleh escapes a terrorist attack unscathed. He survived an assassination attempt last year ahead of presidential elections, an attack targeting his office that killed at least 20 people and injured 50 others.

The attack on vice president Amrullah Saleh was widely condemned across the political world. President Ghani strongly condemned it and vowed that terrorists won’t be able to “weaken the people’s belief in peace, a republic country and a bright future.

The U.S. ambassador to Kabul also condemned the attack, pledging the United States’ support for Afghanistan’s democratic institutions, peace talks and leaders “including Vice President Saleh”.

NATO Senior Civilian Representative to Afghanistan, Stefano Pontecorvo also denunciated the bombing, vowing that NATO will stand with Afghan forces for a secure Afghanistan. Roland Kobia, EU Special Envoy for Afghanistan, in a statement condemned the attack. “Admittedly, we see very little real signals of peace. How will intra-Afghan negotiations work if one party is not able to accept diverging views and wants to eliminate instead of negotiate?” he said.

Amrullah Saleh has long remained a staunch critic of the Taliban and is seen as a bulwark for the Afghan government’s cause in upcoming peace negotiations with the militant group.

He recently said peace talks with the Taliban meant ‘no surrender’, saying Afghanistan government will deny them any compromise in negotiations. In an interview on Tuesday, he called the Taliban an enemy with whom “Afghan people want to live under a peace umbrella”. In a gathering commiserating martyrs’ week, he said Afghan people’s demands will be plainly enunciated to the Taliban. He has constantly defended Kabul’s position about sustaining the republic government, emphasizing on election and mutual talks to end the conflict.

As Afghanistan is bracing for peace negotiations, Taliban have ramped up their attacks across Afghanistan in what is seen as a gambit to gain leverage in the upcoming intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha. The spike in violence is widely believed to be stemming from a downscaled crackdown on militants. The United States and the Taliban in a peace deal in February-end agreed on a release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners from Afghan government prisons in exchange for a gradual withdrawal of American troops from the country and the start of Taliban negotiations with Kabul government. Reports are also suggesting that US President Donald Trump is contemplating reducing American troops.

Albeit, a paradox still hovers over the controversial prisoner exchange between Taliban insurgents and Kabul government which is the prerequisite of the talks, as both sides have presented contradictory figures. Taliban militants say they will not take part in intra-Afghan talks until Kabul government releases 100 of their prisoners who remain jailed. This remark runs counter to an Afghan government’s statement last week that all 5,000 Taliban inmates had been freed except only 6. The report has met with Taliban spokesman’s rebuke who said 100 Taliban insurgents are still languishing in jails.

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