Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh escapes bomb attack unharmed

Some of his bodyguards were injured in the attack that comes ahead of potential renewal of peace talks

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, centre, with his First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, left, and Sarwar Danish, Second Vice President. Reuters
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, centre, with his First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, left, and Sarwar Danish, Second Vice President. Reuters

A bombing in the Afghan capital on Wednesday targeted the convoy of the country's first vice president, killing 10 people and wounding more than a dozen others, including several of the vice president's bodyguards, the Interior Ministry said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing and the Taliban quickly denied they were behind the attack.

First Vice President Amrullah Saleh suffered minor burns in the attack.

"Today, once again the enemy of Afghanistan tried to harm Saleh, but they failed to get to their evil aim, and Saleh escaped the attack unharmed," Razwan Murad, a spokesman for Saleh's office, wrote on Facebook.

The bomb targeted Mr Saleh's convoy and some of his bodyguards were injured.

Health ministry officials said two bodies and seven injured had been taken to hospital so far.

Interior ministry spokesman Tareq Arian said initial reports showed two people had been killed and another 12 wounded in the blast.

Mr Saleh, an outspoken critic of the Taliban, survived an attack last year ahead of presidential elections.

At least 20 people – most of them civilians – were killed and 50 others wounded when a suicide attacker and gunmen targeted Mr Saleh's Kabul office in July last year.

Wednesday's attack comes as Afghan negotiators and the Taliban are expected to begin peace talks soon in the Qatari capital of Doha.

The EU in Afghanistan said Wednesday's attack was a "desperate act by spoilers of peace efforts", while Nato's mission in the country said in a statement that "enemies of peace" were ignoring the will of the Afghan people for peace talks to begin.

President Ashraf Ghani, who met Mr Saleh soon after Wednesday's blast, condemned what he said was a "terrorist attack" on his first deputy.

"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.

Mr Saleh is President Ashraf Ghani's "first" deputy. The second vice president is Sarwar Danish.

The head of the Afghan negotiating team, Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, called for violence to stop if the peace process was to succeed.

"The time for making excuses has passed. The killing of the people must end," he said in a statement.

Even as preparations for negotiations continue, violence on the ground has carried on unabated, with the Taliban unleashing daily attacks.

Mr Saleh on Sunday said Kabul's negotiating team would push early on at peace talks for a permanent truce.

"The first test for the Taliban is (a) ceasefire," Mr Saleh told Tolo News.

"If they accept the ceasefire, they are committed to peace. If not, they are not."

Peace talks were supposed to begin in March but were repeatedly delayed over a prisoner swap that included the release of hundreds of battle-hardened insurgents.

Paris and Canberra in particular have opposed the release of six Taliban militants because of their links to the killings of French and Australian civilians and troops.

Mr Saleh said on Sunday the six inmates would be sent to Qatar.

Updated: September 9, 2020 04:11 PM

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