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Taliban attack on Spanish embassy in Kabul dims hopes of peace talks

The Taliban claimed responsibility for a car bomb attack near the Spanish embassy in Kabul on Friday, further dimming hopes for peace talks with moderate elements of the Islamist insurgent movement touted just days ago by President Ashraf Ghani.

 Gunfire was reported immediately following the explosion, which the Taliban said was targeted at a guest house attached to the embassy in a heavily protected area of the capital close to many foreign embassies and government buildings.

Security forces with armoured vehicles were deployed around the scene, with at least three insurgents involved in the attack, according to one police official.

A Spanish policeman was killed in the attack.

A Taliban spokesperson said the attack had targeted “an invader’s guest house”.

Spain, which contributed to the international force in Afghanistan, withdrew the last of its troops in October although a few officers remain at the headquarters of Nato’s Resolute Support Mission in Kabul.

A Taliban attack in the southern city of Kandahar killed 50 civilians and security forces personnel, and was only suppressed on Wednesday after more than a day of fighting.

The same day, Ghani returned from a regional peace conference in Islamabad aimed at reviving stalled peace talks with Taliban militants following several months of relative calm in the Afghan capital.

On Thursday, the head of Afghanistan’s intelligence agency resigned over a row with Ghani, in a move that underlined the divisions among leaders of the country’s security apparatus.

The Taliban has been caught up with a bloody internal power struggle but it has nevertheless been able to mount well-coordinated attacks on targets across the country.

Militants have stepped up the insurgency following the withdrawal of international forces from combat operations last year, achieving a series of successes, including seizing the northern city of Kunduz in September.

‘Embassy not targeted’

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Saturday said the attack in Kabul’s diplomatic district was not targeted at the country’s embassy, contradicting earlier statements by the foreign ministry and local police.

“There was no intention to attack the Spanish embassy in Afghanistan… it was an attack against some guesthouses very near the embassy,” he told reporters in the southeastern city of Alicante, adding one Spanish policeman had nevertheless been slightly injured.

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