KABUL -- First Vice President Amrullah Saleh sustained minor injuries Wednesday (September 9) in an explosion targeting his convoy that killed at least 10 people, as government-backed negotiators and the Taliban prepare to meet in Qatar for peace talks.
The attack in Kabul drew quick condemnation as an attempt to frustrate the peace process, with top Afghan and foreign officials calling for an end to violence so that negotiations between the two warring sides can succeed.
In a video posted on Facebook soon after the explosion, Saleh, an outspoken Taliban critic, said he had been travelling to his office when his convoy was attacked.
"I am fine, but some of my guards have been wounded," Saleh said, with bandages on his left hand. "My son, who was in the car with me, and I are both fine."
"I have some burns on my face and hand," he said. "The blast was strong."
The bomb was detonated remotely when Saleh's convoy passed by, the Interior Affairs Ministry said.
"Unfortunately, 10 civilians, mostly people who were working in the area, were killed, and 15, including a number of the first VP's bodyguards, were wounded," Tariq Arian, a spokesman for the ministry, told reporters at the scene.
The Taliban denied responsibility.
Abdullah, a shopkeeper, said the blast had blown out windows of his shop.
"A shop that sold gas cylinders also caught fire, causing the cylinders to blow up," he said.
This is not the first time Saleh has faced an attack on his life.
He survived an assassination attempt last year ahead of presidential elections in which at least 20 people -- most of them civilians -- were killed and 50 others wounded when a suicide attacker and gunmen targeted his Kabul office.
Kabul's negotiating team will push early on at peace talks for a permanent truce, he said Sunday (September 6).
"The first test for the Taliban is [a] ceasefire," Saleh told TOLOnews. "If they accept the ceasefire, they are committed to peace. If not, they are not."
'Enemies of peace'
Condemnation was swift and universal.
The attack was a "desperate act by spoilers of peace efforts", said the European Union's office in Afghanistan.
"Enemies of peace" are ignoring the desire of the Afghan people for peace talks to begin, NATO's mission in Afghanistan said in a statement.
President Ashraf Ghani, who met Saleh soon after the explosion, condemned what he called a "terrorist attack" on his first deputy.
"The terrorists and their foreign backers cannot undermine the people's strong faith in peace, democracy and the bright future of our country," Ghani said in a statement.
Violence must stop for the peace process to succeed, said Masoom Stanekzai, chief of the Afghan negotiating team.
"The time for making excuses has passed. The killing of the people must end," he said in a statement.
"I am shocked & dismayed by today's attack on First Vice President @AmrullahSaleh2's life," Ross Wilson, the US chargé d'affaires in Kabul, said in a Twitter post.
"The United States strongly supports Afghanistan's democratic institutions and leaders, including, Vice President Saleh and we strongly support efforts that we hope begin soon in Doha toward lasting peace and an end to this kind of violence," he said.
"My deepest condolences to those who needlessly lost their lives & those who were injured," Wilson said.