Afghanistan VP lightly wounded in deadly Kabul blast

A smoke plume rises following an explosion targeting the convoy of Afghanistan’s vice president Amrullah Saleh in Kabul.

Afghanistan’s vice president Amrullah Saleh sustained minor injuries Wednesday when his convoy was targeted in Kabul in an explosion that killed at least six people and wounded a dozen more, officials said.

In a video posted on Facebook soon after the explosion, Saleh, with bandages on his left hand, said he had been travelling to his office when his convoy was attacked.

“I am fine but some of my guards have been wounded. My son, who was in the car with me, and I are both fine,” Saleh said.

“I have some burns on my face and hand. The blast was strong.”

Akmal Samsoor, a spokesman for the ministry of health, told AFP six dead bodies and 12 wounded people had been taken to Kabul hospital.

The Taliban, who have pledged not to launch attacks in urban areas under a deal with the United States, denied responsibility.

Abdullah, a shopkeeper who gave only one name, said the blast had blown out his windows.

“A shop that sold gas cylinders also caught fire, causing the cylinders to blow up,” he said.

Saleh is the senior of Afghanistan’s two vice presidents. The second is Sarwar Danish.

An outspoken Taliban critic, he 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 Saleh’s Kabul office at that time.

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

On Sunday, Saleh said Kabul’s negotiating team would push early on for a permanent ceasefire.

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

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

Even as preparations continue for direct talks, violence on the ground has continued, with the Taliban unleashing daily attacks.

“These attacks shatter the hopes of the millions of Afghans who dream (of) peace and are looking forward to seeing the start of peace talks and end of violence,” Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, tweeted on Tuesday.

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.

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



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