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Car bomb rocks Kabul as Afghan president outlines peace plans

Omar Sobhani, Reuters | Afghan security forces arrive at the site of a suicide bomb attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, November 20, 2018.

A car bomb exploded outside a security contractors’ compound in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Wednesday, opening the way for gunmen who battled security forces only hours after President Ashraf Ghani outlined plans for peace in Afghanistan.

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There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which hit a compound of the British security group G4S , near an industrial park on the main road leading out of Kabul towards eastern Afghanistan.

“A number of gunmen entered the G4S compound right after the car bomb,” said Najib Danish, an Interior Ministry spokesman. “Our forces are fighting the gunmen.”

He said it was unclear how many attackers were involved or how many casualties there were.

The attack came only hours after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told a UN-sponsored conference in Geneva of plans to seek a peace agreement with the Taliban, which he said would take at least five years.

Efforts to open peace talks with the Taliban have picked up following the appointment of US special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, but the violence that kills thousands in Afghanistan every year continues.

Peace talks with the Taliban

On Tuesday, at the start of the conference, the European Union announced €474 million ($535 million) in financial aid for Afghanistan.

The European Commission said the new funding would go towards reforms in the public sector, health, justice, and migration and displacement issues, with €311 million of it to be used to support Afghanistan's "reform agenda".

Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign affairs chief, said the bloc was "ready to do our part as a neutral player". She welcomed Ghani's offer of peace talks with the Taliban.

"It is a unique opportunity to break the stalemate and to move the country forward," she said. "We believe it is time for concrete talks about peace to begin."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said his country hoped for an "end of this fratricidal war" in Afghanistan and cited concerns about the stepped-up militant attacks by the Islamic State group affiliate in Afghanistan.

The Geneva meeting aims to take stock of the Afghan government's use of billions of dollars in foreign aid for education, health care, humanitarian support and needs since 2016.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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