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The Kabul restaurant Le Jardin was severely damaged after being hit by a suicide car bomb on Friday, Jan. 1, 2016. The attack came a day after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced a new effort to restart peace talks with the Taliban.

The Kabul restaurant Le Jardin was severely damaged after being hit by a suicide car bomb on Friday, Jan. 1, 2016. The attack came a day after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced a new effort to restart peace talks with the Taliban. (Heath Druzin/Stars and Stripes)

The Kabul restaurant Le Jardin was severely damaged after being hit by a suicide car bomb on Friday, Jan. 1, 2016. The attack came a day after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced a new effort to restart peace talks with the Taliban.

The Kabul restaurant Le Jardin was severely damaged after being hit by a suicide car bomb on Friday, Jan. 1, 2016. The attack came a day after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced a new effort to restart peace talks with the Taliban. (Heath Druzin/Stars and Stripes)

A suicide bombing on Friday, Jan. 1, 2016, severely damaged the building of Le Jardin, a French restaurant in Kabul. The restaurant, popular with foreigners and wealthy Afghans, caught fire after the attack, which killed two people.

A suicide bombing on Friday, Jan. 1, 2016, severely damaged the building of Le Jardin, a French restaurant in Kabul. The restaurant, popular with foreigners and wealthy Afghans, caught fire after the attack, which killed two people. (Heath Druzin/Stars and Stripes)

Two men look at a car destroyed by a deadly bomb attack against a Kabul restaurant popular with foreigners and wealthy Afghans. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the New Year's Day attack, which came a day after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced an effort to restart peace talks with the insurgent group.

Two men look at a car destroyed by a deadly bomb attack against a Kabul restaurant popular with foreigners and wealthy Afghans. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the New Year's Day attack, which came a day after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced an effort to restart peace talks with the insurgent group. (Heath Druzin/Stars and Stripes)

Residents clean up Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, after a suicide bomb aimed at a restaurant ripped through their Kabul neighborhood the day before, heavily damaging many houses. A 12-year-old boy and an Afghan guard at the restaurant were killed.

Residents clean up Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, after a suicide bomb aimed at a restaurant ripped through their Kabul neighborhood the day before, heavily damaging many houses. A 12-year-old boy and an Afghan guard at the restaurant were killed. (Heath Druzin/Stars and Stripes)

KABUL, Afghanistan — The deadly Taliban bombing on Friday of a Kabul restaurant popular with foreigners and wealthy Afghans provided a dramatic reminder of just how distant the prospect of peace in Afghanistan remains a year after the United States declared an end to its combat mission in the country.

The militant group claimed responsibility for the suicide bomb attack on Le Jardin, a French restaurant owned by the governor of Kabul province, who is close to President Ashraf Ghani. A 12-year-old boy and a security guard were killed; 18 others were injured.

The New Year’s Day bombing, which shook the exclusive Taimani neighborhood in central Kabul and shattered the windows of buildings in the restaurant’s vicinity, came a day after Ghani had announced a new effort at peace talks with the Taliban. Later this month Pakistan will host a four-country meeting in Islamabad to work out a framework for negotiations to end the 14-year-old war.

Saturday, in the wake of the attack, Ghani released a fiery statement.

“Those who kill innocent Afghans don’t have any place with the government of Afghanistan in peace talks,” he said in the statement. “Those who are unwilling to put down their weapons and want to continue fighting against our people, the government of Afghanistan will fight until they are eliminated.”

Friday’s blast occurred about 5 p.m., when a suicide car bomb detonated at the gate of Le Jardin, which doubles as a guesthouse, police said.

One armed suspect was arrested nearby, Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said in a statement.

The Taliban, who often exaggerate the effect of their attacks, said on their website that a number of attackers with suicide vests had stormed a guesthouse and killed foreigners.

The day after the attack it was clear that ordinary Afghans had taken the brunt of the blast.

Residents gathered in the neighborhood around the restaurant to clean up broken glass and bricks scattered on the road.

Massoud Bayat, 21, surveyed his family’s destroyed shop, whose blood-soaked floor was littered with soda cans, bags of chips and broken eggs. He was in the shop, next to the boy who was killed, when the bomb went off. The boy, named Basit, died when a piece of shrapnel struck him in the head, Bayat said.

“Everything is destroyed,” he said.

Another man, Jamil Nasiri, 22, sifted through debris from his heavily damaged home, wearing a shirt stained with blood from a head wound he sustained from broken glass.

“My father is dead and I am the sole breadwinner for my family, so I hope the government will help us rebuild,” he said.

The Taliban have staged several high-profile attacks in the past three weeks, including the siege of a guesthouse for Spanish embassy employees. Most of those killed and injured have been Afghans, not the foreigners the group said it was targeting.

A statement from Resolute Support, the international military coalition in Afghanistan, condemned the attack.

“A Taliban group has started the new year the same way they ended last year: by again targeting defenseless civilians and showing their complete disregard for the safety of Afghan people,” coalition spokesman Brig. Gen. Wilson A. Shoffner said.

Le Jardin, one of the last remaining restaurants in the capital that foreigners frequent, has tighter security than many establishments catering to expats. The January 2014 massacre of 21 people at a Lebanese restaurant caused many expats to become more careful in their movements.

Friday’s attack was the second to hit the capital in a week. On Monday, a Taliban suicide attack killed one civilian and injured more than 30, 18 of them children studying at a nearby school.

The meeting Ghani announced Thursday is to take place on Jan. 11 in Islamabad with representatives from the United States, Pakistan and China. Ghani did not say whether the latest attack would change plans for the meeting. The president has made a peace agreement with the Taliban his foremost goal.

Violence has been rising as the U.S.-led international military coalition has scaled back and become focused on training and advising Afghan security forces. NATO-led Resolute Support is made up of roughly 13,000 troops. That’s down from a high of 130,000 coalition troops in 2012.

Afghan troops, which have taken over most of the day-to-day fighting, have sometimes struggled, especially in the Taliban heartland of Helmand province, much of which is now under the militants’ control.

President Barack Obama has twice delayed the timeline for further withdrawal of U.S. troops because of what the Pentagon describes as a significant deterioration in the security situation in the past year.

druzin.heath@stripes.com Twitter: @Druzin_Stripes


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