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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Taliban bomb rocks Kabul as Ghani announces Taliban peace team

A Taliban bomb attack that targeted a British security company in Kabul left at least 10 people dead and 19 wounded on Wednesday as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told a UN-sponsored conference of plans to seek a peace agreement with the militant group.

Interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish said a suicide bomber detonated his explosives and then other insurgents started a gun battle with forces in the area. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

Basir Mujahid, spokesman for the Kabul police chief, said the target of the attack was British security company G4S. He said the company offers training for Afghan security forces.

In a separate attack in the Taimani area of Kabul, gunmen targeted the house of Amrullah Saleh, Afghanistan's former intelligence chief and head of the Green Party movement.

Mr Saleh told The National by phone that he was with Rahmatullah Nabil, a former director of Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security, when three gunmen launched an assault on his home. His guards repelled the attack and neither man was harmed.

Before the attacks took place, Mr Ghani announced a 12-person team for prospective peace talks with the Taliban, as the UN renewed calls for direct negotiations between Kabul and the militants.

The Afghan government, western diplomats and United Nations officials have in recent weeks raised hopes of finally reaching a deal to end the Taliban's 17-year insurgency.

At an international conference on Afghanistan in Geneva, Mr Ghani said his government had "formed a 12-person negotiating team, comprised of both women and men, and led by presidential chief of staff [Abdul Salam] Rahimi".

Mr Rahimi, a former humanitarian worker and ex-deputy Afghan finance minister, is considered one of Mr Ghani's closest aides.

Meanwhile, Afghan officials say air strikes killed at least 30 civilians in the southern province of Helmand late on Tuesday as Nato forces stepped up air missions to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said the attack on the G4S compound was a response to the Helmand strikes.