Taliban suicide attack targets French restaurant in Kabul

Taliban claim several foreigners were killed in the attack

Afp January 01, 2016
Security personnel and bystanders look on as flames and smoke rise at the site of a suicide car bomb attack at a French restaurant- Le Jardin in Kabul on January 1, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

KABUL: A Taliban suicide car bomber hit a French restaurant popular with foreigners in Kabul Friday, in a New Year's day attack that marks the latest in a series of brazen insurgent assaults.

There was no immediate confirmation of casualties from the attack on Le Jardin, an Afghan-owned eatery, which caused a piercingly loud explosion and left a building engulfed in flames.

The attack comes a day after Afghanistan announced four-way talks in Pakistan on January 11, aimed at jump-starting peace negotiations with the resurgent Taliban.

"We can confirm a suicide car bomb attack on Le Jardin," Fraidoon Obaidi, the head of Kabul's Criminal Investigation Department, told AFP.

"We are busy extinguishing the fire at the scene," he added.

The information was corroborated by a Western official in Kabul, who did not have details of casualties.

Security forces cordoned off the area and firefighters and ambulances with wailing sirens were seen rushing to the restaurant.

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Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid on Twitter claimed several foreigners had been killed and wounded in the suicide attack.

The insurgents routinely exaggerate the death toll in attacks on government and foreign targets.

The Taliban were unable to breach the compound after the explosion at the entrance, Kabul police said after a sweep of the area which led to the detention of one suspect.

The attack comes just days after Pakistan's army chief General Raheel Sharif visited Kabul to try to prepare the ground for fresh peace talks with the resurgent Taliban.

Both sides agreed to hold a first round of dialogue between Afghanistan, Pakistan, US and China on January 11 to lay out a comprehensive roadmap for peace, officials in Kabul said.

Pakistan hosted a milestone first round of talks in July but the negotiations stalled when the insurgents belatedly confirmed the death of long-time leader Mullah Omar.

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Afghanistan sees the support of Pakistan as vital to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.

But despite the growing bonhomie with Islamabad, analysts caution that any substantive talks are still a long way off.

Afghan forces are currently battling to push out Taliban insurgents who seized large swathes of the key opium-rich district of Sangin in the southern province of Helmand.

Observers say the intensifying insurgency highlights a push by the insurgents to make more military gains to try to achieve greater concessions during talks.


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