At least 7 dead in the explosion of a car bomb in Kabul

KABUL: At least seven people were killed and seven were injured when a car bomb detonated during Kabul's busy rush hour on Wednesday, a Interior Ministry spokesman said.

The spokesman, Nasrat Rahimi, said the bomb had exploded in a neighborhood near the interior ministry and north of Kabul airport.

He said the victims were all civilians. This is the initial information, more details later, he added.

A source from the Interior Ministry said the explosion was triggered by a suicide bomber in the car and that he had targeted a convoy of government vehicles on a main road.

There was no attribution of immediate responsibility. Both the Taliban group and the Islamic State are active in Kabul, which is one of the deadliest places in the country devastated by war for civilians.

The explosion came a day after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced that Kabul would release three high-ranking Taliban prisoners in an apparent exchange of prisoners with Western hostages who were kidnapped by insurgents in 2016.

The three Taliban prisoners include Anas Haqqani, who was kidnapped in 2014 and whose older brother is the Taliban deputy leader and head of the Haqqani network, a notorious Taliban affiliate.

Ghani did not specify the fate of the western hostages, an Australian and an American, both professors of the American University of Kabul, and it was not clear when or where they would be released.

The two, American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks, were kidnapped in August 2016 from the heart of Kabul.

Later they appeared emaciated in a video of Taliban hostages, and the insurgents continued saying that King was in poor health.

Ghani said in his speech that his health has deteriorated while they were in the custody of the terrorists.

Nor did he indicate when or where the Taliban prisoners would be released.

But he said he hoped the decision would help pave the way for the start of direct unofficial talks between his government and the Taliban, who for a long time refused to negotiate with the administration in Kabul.

Over the past year, the United States and the Taliban had been holding direct talks in search of an agreement that would bring insurgents to the table for peace talks with Kabul and allow the United States to begin withdrawing troops.

But president Donald Trump The negotiations abruptly ended in September, citing continued Taliban violence.

Most experts agree that there is no military solution in Afghanistan , and those conversations will have to restart again eventually.

Until then, however, civilians continue to pay a disproportionate price in the brutal and long-lasting war.

Last month, the United Nations released a report saying an "unprecedented" number of civilians were killed or wounded in Afghanistan from July to September this year.

The figures, 1,174 deaths and 3,139 wounded from July 1 to September 30, represent a 42 percent increase over the same period last year.

The UN laid most of the blame at the feet of "anti-government elements" such as the Taliban, who have been carrying out an insurgency in Afghanistan for more than 18 years.