Wed, 11 Dec 2019

At least seven people were killed and as many were wounded on November 13 when a car bomb detonated during the morning rush hour in Kabul, officials said.

The blast occurred in the Qasaba area of the capital, north of Kabul airport, Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi told foreign media outlets.

No one immediately claimed responsibility. Both the Taliban and Islamic State militant group are active in Kabul.

All the dead were civilians, Rahimi said, while adding that the number of casualties could rise.

'This is the initial information, more details later,' he said.

The blast came a day after the Afghan government released three key Taliban prisoners, including Anas Haqqani, the younger brother of Sirajjuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani network, in exchange for two professors of the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul -- an American and an Australian.

Besides Haqqani, Afghan officials have said two other prominent Taliban militants -- Hafiz Rashid Omari and Haji Milli Khan -- were released.

The release was announced by President Ashraf Ghani, who did not specify the fate of the Western hostages and it was not clear when or where they would be freed.

American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks were kidnapped in August 2016 from the heart of Kabul.

Some analysts had hoped the prisoner release could defuse violence in Afghanistan.

Neither the Taliban nor the Haqqani network have commented so far on the prisoner swap.

The deal could pave the way for peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. The militant group has so far refused to talk to the Afghan government, which it says is a U.S. puppet.

The Haqqani network was founded by the late Jalaluddin Haqqani, who died in September 2018.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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