Taliban defends Kabul suicide attack: We enter peace talks with US 'from a strong position'

Taliban defends Kabul suicide attack: We enter peace talks with US 'from a strong position'
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The Taliban defended carrying out a Monday suicide attack in the Afghan capital of Kabul amid ongoing peace talks with the U.S., saying the move put them in a “strong position” to negotiate, according to The Associated Press.

The bombing in an international compound killed at least 16 civilians hours after a representative of the U.S. said he had reached a deal “in principle” with the Taliban to end the 18-year war, which began when the militant group refused to turn over Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks.

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“[W]e understand that peace talks are going on ... but they must also understand that we are not weak and if we enter into talks ... we enter from a strong position,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the AP.

Mujahid said Taliban forces ordered the attack in response to raids by U.S. and Afghan forces in other regions of the country that he said also targeted civilians, adding that the civilians injured or killed in the Taliban attack faced such risks by living near a foreign compound.

Nasrat Rahimi, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry, said about 400 foreign nationals had been rescued following the attack, and that five assailants had been shot and killed by security forces after the bomb went off.

The bomber detonated an explosive-packed tractor shortly after Afghanistan-born U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said he had reached a tentative agreement to withdraw 5,000 U.S. troops from five bases in Afghanistan within 135 days of a final deal.

The attack has renewed suspicions among Afghan citizens and government officials that the Taliban will not adhere to any agreement once U.S. troops have left the country, according to the AP.