Dhaka, Bangladesh
Afghans brace for violence after US-Taliban talks halt

Afghans brace for violence after US-Taliban talks halt

Afghanistan, Sept 9: Afghans braced for a possible new wave of Taliban violence on Monday after President Donald Trump abruptly called off talks with the insurgent group, which vows to continue its fight against what it calls "foreign occupation." Trump's surprise weekend announcement came shortly before a string of highly sensitive days in Afghanistan, including Monday's anniversary of the killing of anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, the major Shiite Muslim holy day of Ashoura on Tuesday and Wednesday's 9/11 anniversary, reports AP. It was not immediately clear whether the U.S.-Taliban talks will resume and when on ending nearly 18 years of fighting, reports AP. A roadside bomb blast in the capital, Kabul, on Monday wounded three civilians, said Firdaus Faramarz, spokesman for the city's police chief. The target was unknown, he said, and there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. The local affiliate of the Islamic State group also carries out attacks in the capital, often targeting the minority Shiite community. The blast was not in a predominantly Shiite area. The Taliban claimed attacks on at least two districts of northeastern Takhar province overnight, with no immediate reports of casualties. A heavy gunbattle continued in the district of Khwaja Ghar but security reinforcements had arrived, said Khalil Aser, spokesman for the provincial police chief. The Taliban attacked three provincial capitals earlier this month, even while finalizing a deal with the U.S. to end nearly 18 years of fighting. The group has defended the attacks, saying they were meant to strengthen its negotiating position. The main highway between Kabul and the capital of the northern province of Baghlan remained blocked, a week after the Taliban attacked Puli Khumri, and sporadic gunbattles continued, said Jawad Basharat, spokesman for the provincial police chief. Violence continued on all sides in what was the world's deadliest conflict last year. In northern Sari Pul province, at least five women were wounded in an airstrike by the Afghan air force late Sunday, said Mohammad Ayub Ansari, district chief in Gospandi district. One woman was pregnant and lost her child and two other women were in critical condition, he said. The air support was called in after the Taliban shot and killed two pro-government forces, leading to a gunbattle with security forces, Ansari said. An unknown number of Taliban were killed and wounded, he said. The Taliban have not commented on that attack. Another report from Washington adds: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday he hopes the United States and the Taliban can resume talks in the future, reports Xinhua. Pompeo said in an interview with Fox News that talks are dead "for the time being" after one U.S. soldier was killed in Afghanistan on Thursday. "I hope we get them started back," Pompeo said, referring to the talks, adding the Taliban "have got to demonstrate that they are prepared to do the things that we asked them to do in the course of those negotiations." The reconciliatory message came after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled the plugs on the talks Saturday, citing the deadly attack. In a flurry of tweets, Trump said a secret meeting with Taliban leaders and the Afghan president scheduled for Sunday had been scrapped due to the attack. The United States and the Taliban are reportedly close to a deal to end the over-18-year-old U.S. war in Afghanistan. Both the Taliban militants and the Afghan government forces have intensified operations in the war-torn country recently.

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