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A suicide bomb attack on government employees in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Monday killed one and injured 15, according to officials.
Witnesses to the blast told Reuters that it occurred when an assailant detonated a car filled with explosives as a bus was transporting civil servants to work at the Attorney General's Office passed by.
Taliban militants — who have been waging a violent insurgency on the Afghan government since a US invasion force drove them from power in 2001 — said that they carried out the attack. Violence has been on the rise in Afghanistan since most American and allied foreign forces pulled out at the beginning of this year.
Local troops are now responsible for security, and have been struggling to combat the insurgents while taking heavy casualties. A surprise Taliban offensive in April brought the group to the outskirts of the provincial capital of Kunduz. The civilian toll has also increased: a record 10,000 non-combatants were killed or wounded in 2014, according to the United Nations.
The violence notwithstanding, Taliban leaders released a statement on Monday signaling that they would be open to modifying their position on some previous non-negotiable issues in a move that could open the way to future peace talks. The announcement followed two days of informal discussions with Afghan officials in Qatar, and indicated that previous sticking points, like the presence of foreigners in the country, might not be insurmountable.
"The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan [Taliban] once again as a policy clearly states that it does not want to harm others and also won't allow anyone to use Afghan soil against others," the statement said, according to an Associated Press translation, adding that the group sought "cooperation in all sectors with all countries, including neighbors, and welcomes the efforts of anyone in bringing peace to Afghanistan."
There have been several failed peace initiatives in the past, but President Ashraf Ghani has focused on a diplomatic solution since he took office last year. An Afghan official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told AP that despite recent violence, the Qatar talks had been positive.
"In spite of the fierce fighting and very bad situation here, the tone from both sides is positive," the source said. "It is a good starting point. We will ask them to go ahead prudently and wisely to find a political solution rather than intensify military activity, which is causing the loss of innocent life."
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