Taliban fighters intensify attacks ahead of peace talks

Kabul, Jan 6 (IANS) Taliban militants fighting the government to regain power have intensified their activities since the start of 2016, with five suicide bombs rocking parts of Afghanistan including Kabul.

On Monday, two suicide car bombs shook the fortified capital Kabul. The second, in the evening, claimed the lives of two people and injured 36 civilians, Xinhua news agency reported.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack and said in an online statement that its car bomb, targeting a camp of foreign soldiers next to Kabul International Airport, killed several service members.

A day earlier on Sunday, a group of militants stormed the Indian consulate in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, triggering a heavy gun battle.

This ended after three suicide attackers were killed and nine others, including four civilians, injured.

Afghan political watchers believe that the increase in Taliban activities ahead of the proposed peace talks signals the outfit’s decision to attend the negotiations from a strong position.

“The Taliban by organizing successive deadly suicide attacks want to demonstrate their military power ahead of the peace dialogue to bargain for concessions,” political analyst Khan Mohammad Daneshjo told Xinhua.

The quadrilateral meeting between Afghanistan, Pakistan, the US and China will be held in Islamabad next week to map out ways in which talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban can reach an amicable solution to Afghanistan’s lingering crisis.

The first ever face-to-face talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban with the mediation of Pakistan was held in the scenic city of Murree, some 100 km from Islamabad, in July 2015.

However, the Taliban’s new leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor, who replaced former leader Mullah Mohammad Omar after confirmation of his death in August, said the peace talks were a “meaningless practice” and called for pushing ahead with the so-called jehad or holy war.

Mullah Mansoor’s succession has divided the Taliban outfit, with the main factions led by Mullah Akhtar Mansoor and Mullah Rasoul Akhund, whose supporters have challenged Mansoor’s leadership. Fighting between the two sides has claimed hundreds of lives over the past couple of months.

“In my opinion, Mullah Rasoul’s faction will join the peace process,” Daneshjo predicted, saying that if Mullah Rasoul’s faction joins the peace process, militancy will slacken in the western region and pave the way for other insurgents to follow step.

“Naturally the standoff in war could end through negotiation and the Afghan conflict could be resolved,” the analyst said.

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