Security

Taliban claim blast that killed US soldier in Afghanistan

Salaam Times and AFP

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This photograph shows the aftermath of a bombing that killed at least three civilians in Dawlat Shah District, Laghman Province, on December 23. [201st Silab Corps/Facebook]

KABUL -- The Taliban claimed responsibility Monday (December 23) for a blast that killed a US soldier.

The militant group said the explosion occurred in Kunduz Province and that several other troops were wounded in the incident.

The killing is likely to have consequences for talks between the United States and the Taliban. US President Donald Trump in September declared negotiations "dead" after the Taliban killed a US soldier in a Kabul bombing.

Negotiations have since restarted in Doha, but earlier this month they were put on a "pause" following yet another bombing, this time at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul.

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Afghan security personnel keep watch during fighting between Taliban militants and Afghan forces in Kunduz on May 10, 2017. [BASHIR KHAN SAFI / AFP]

Insurgents "blew up an American vehicle in Char Dara [Chahar Dara] District of Kunduz" overnight Sunday (December 22)-Monday, said Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujhaid in a WhatsApp message to AFP.

One US service member was "killed in action", said US Forces-Afghanistan.

The service member had been inspecting a weapons cache when it exploded, a US official told AFP.

"This was not the result of an attack as the enemy claims," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A province under regular attack

Kunduz Province has been the site of repeated insurgent attacks and attempts to seize Kunduz city itself.

The deal between US negotiators and the Taliban had been all but signed before Trump nixed it at the last moment in early September.

A relative improvement in Kabul's security situation and the release of two Western hostages in a prisoner swap paved the way for a resumption of talks on December 7.

Those talks were paused for a few days following the Bagram attack but have since started again.

Under the initial version of the deal, the US military would have withdrawn some troops in return for Taliban guarantees to tackle al-Qaeda and "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS).

Monday's blast comes one day after officials announced preliminary results in Afghanistan's presidential elections that put President Ashraf Ghani on track to secure a second term.

Also on Monday, a bomb explosion at a funeral ceremony in Laghman Province east of Kabul killed three civilians and wounded nine others, Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said.

He blamed the Taliban for the blast that hit the crowd of mourners at a local tribal leader's funeral.

The Taliban had no immediate comment.

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