ISLAMABAD - A Taliban suicide car bomber struck a NATO convoy in Kabul, killing three foreign troops and wounding 13 Afghan civilians. The violence comes amid renewed hopes a power sharing deal between Afghanistan’s rival presidential candidates can be reached late on Tuesday to end a months-long election crisis.
The early morning suicide attack on the NATO convoy took place not far from the sprawling U.S. Embassy on a main road that leads to the Kabul airport. Witnesses in the Afghan capital say the powerful explosion shook nearby neighborhoods and sent a plume of smoke high into the air.
Afghan and NATO officials say the wounded include several foreign troops and a number of Afghan civilians. Television footage showed the blast completely destroyed several vehicles among more than a dozen that were hit. The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying a suicide bomber had been lying in wait for foreign troops in the explosives-packed car.
The violence comes amid hopes that a months-long political stalemate, which has fueled security and economic uncertainty in Afghanistan, could end as early as Tuesday night. The optimism stems from an overnight meeting that outgoing President Hamid Karzai hosted between presidential rivals Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani.
A Ghani spokesman, Abas Noyan, told VOA negotiations with the Abdullah campaign were continuing.
“Negotiation is going on and may be at the end of the day we can have a good news about the situation or for establishing of a national unity government,” he said.
Abdullah’s team has also reported progress in the talks without discussing details. And a spokesman for President Karzai is reported as saying a breakthrough was achieved in Monday’s talks. He hoped a clear picture would emerge later on Tuesday.
The presidential candidates have been negotiating for more than two months on how to share power in a so-called national unity government. The talks opened in July, shortly after the election commission began a comprehensive audit of the disputed June runoff vote.
The audit was performed under the direct supervision of the United Nations, but Abdullah has rejected it even though the outcome has not been made public. The former Afghan foreign minister alleges massive vote fraud and says the U.N. auditors did not take his complaints into account.
Ghani is expected to be declared the winner of the election but there are fears of violent street protests from the rival campaign.
Political discussions between Ghani and Abdullah previously have deadlocked over how much power a newly created chief executive office will have in the proposed national unity government. The post is expected to be given to the losing candidate and Ghani has long insisted that there cannot be two heads of state in Afghanistan under the constitution.
His spokesman Noyan would not say whether Ghani has shown willingness to back down from his position.
“It is still under the negotiation. We cannot publicize it right now. But many things have been agreed and what Dr. Ashraf Ghani and his team wants is that everything should be at the boundaries of the national constitution of Afghanistan,” he said.
Noyan acknowledged that months of political struggle to find a successor to President Karzai have caused a deterioration in economic and security conditions in Afghanistan.
Analysts see the power-sharing deal between Abdullah and Ghani as the best hope for peace after allegations of massive vote-rigging undermined confidence in the legitimacy of the election process. Many fear the tensions, if not defused, will fuel ethnic and tribal rivalries between the two presidential campaigns.