Taliban blast kills 12 in Ghazni as peace talks continue in Qatar

The explosion came as Taliban met US negotiators and Afghan representatives

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A car bombing claimed by the Taliban killed at least 12 people in the eastern city of Ghazni on Sunday as talks between the group, US negotiators and Afghan representatives took place in Qatar.

The attack happened outside an Afghan intelligence unit.

Wahidullah Mayar, a health ministry spokesman, said 12 people had been killed.

Additionally, 179 people, “mostly civilians including children, were wounded”, he added.

The number of injured jumped from an earlier toll of 70 and suggests the explosion was massive.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a WhatsApp message.

The seventh round of Taliban-US talks is aimed at forging a deal in which the US military withdraw from Afghanistan in return for various guarantees.

Afghan security forces inspect the site of a car bomb attack in Ghazni province, central Afghanistan, Sunday, July 7, 2019. Afghan officials say a car bomb in central Afghanistan has killed a few people and wounded dozens of people, many of them students attending a nearby school. (AP Photo/Rahmatullah Nikzad)

Both sides have reported substantial progress in the talks, which were paused on Sunday and Monday while the Taliban met Afghan representatives.

The blast, in a crowded area of Ghazni city, was the latest in a wave of near-daily attacks by the Taliban, who now hold sway over about half of Afghanistan and continue to intensify attacks on Afghan forces despite increased US efforts towards a peace agreement to end the 18-year war.

The Taliban, who have repeatedly refused to negotiate with the Western-backed government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, agreed to join the intra-Afghan summit on the condition that those there would attend in a personal capacity.

About 60 high-profile Afghan figures and activists were in Doha to meet the Taliban officials during the two-day conference, a meeting arranged by German and Qatari officials with the support of US negotiators.

Mr Ghani condemned the bombing in Ghazni on Sunday, and questioned the Taliban’s true intent behind holding talks in Qatar.

“They stain their hands with the blood of innocent people in Afghanistan every day. They should know that it is not possible to gain privileges in peace talks by targeting civilians, especially children,” he said in a statement.