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Suicide bomber kills at least nine in Kabul Shiite area

AFP  |  Kabul 

A suicide bomber blew himself up in a Shiite area of today, killing at least nine people, officials said, as militants dial up pressure on the war-weary Afghan capital. The third suicide attack in the city in a fortnight comes as the face growing pressure to take up the Afghan government's recent offer of peace talks to end a more than 16-year insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, which happened near a high-profile gathering to mark -- a prominent former of the mainly Shiite Hazara ethnic community who was killed by the The event was attended by some of the country's top politicians, including Executive and his deputy Mohammad Mohaqiq, a senior Hazara figure. The Sunni Islamic State group typically targets Shiites who it regards as apostates. "The death toll has gone up to nine," told AFP, adding 18 others were wounded. Among the dead were two policemen, he said. The rest were civilians.

Officials said the attacker was on foot. Afghan officials gave a wide range of figures for the number of casualties: a security source told AFP 13 people were killed and more than 30 wounded. But police told that five people were killed and 22 others wounded. Amin said the bomber detonated his at a checkpoint "after being identified by police". "The bomber failed to get inside to target the gathering," he said. Kazim Ali, who was at the gathering, told AFP the force of the explosion shattered the windows of the mosque. "We were inside the mosque when a loud explosion took place. Security forces didn't allow us to move afterwards," he said. Afghan at an international conference in last week unveiled a plan to open talks with the Taliban, including eventually recognising them as a political party. In return, Ghani said the militants should officially recognise the and constitution, a perennial sticking point in past attempts at dialogue. "The offer of negotiation is on the table," UN to told a meeting on Thursday to mark the annual renewal of the UN mission to the war-torn country. The has also called on the insurgents to consider the offer of peace talks. While Western officials have hailed Ghani's offer as a positive step, they have told AFP that it is far too early to tell if it will lead anywhere. Before Ghani's speech, the militants had called for direct talks with the US. Friday's attack comes a week after a car bomb detonated near a passing convoy in the city's east that killed at least one child and wounded several other people. is one of the deadliest places in for civilians as both the and the expanding IS group step up their assaults on the city. Despite the cautious optimism for a peace deal, remains on high alert, fearing further violence. American officials are also braced for more fighting in the spring after an unusually violent winter when the conflict traditionally eases. Since mid-January, militants have stormed a luxury hotel, bombed a crowded street, raided a military compound and launched a suicide attack during morning rush hour in the capital, killing more than 130 people. In a separate incident overnight, militants raided a number of checkpoints manned by Afghan security forces in the northern province of Takhar, district told AFP. Omar said 10 local police and seven soldiers were killed and more than a dozen wounded in the attacks claimed by the The casualty figures could not be immediately verified.

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First Published: Fri, March 09 2018. 16:35 IST