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Islamic State claims responsibility for deadly attack in Afghanistan: Report

File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )

Agencies Cairo, Egypt Mar 07, 2019, 01.31 PM (IST)

Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack that killed 16 people in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province, the militant group's Amaq news agency said on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, suicide bombers and gunmen attacked a construction company office in the Afghan city of Jalalabad, killing 16 employees of the Afghan company, a provincial official said.

Jalalabad is the capital of Nangarhar province, which is on the border with Pakistan.

The bombings come as US and Taliban negotiations continue to hold ongoing peace talks in Qatar aimed at ending the nearly 18-year conflict.

Despite a two-day break before the weekend, negotiations continue on "a daily basis right now and progress is being made", US State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told journalists Tuesday.

"These discussions are ongoing and what we're focusing on are the four interconnected issues that are going to compose any future agreement," Palladino said -- listing them as terrorism, troop withdrawal, intra-Afghan dialogue and ceasefire.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during an exchange with high school students in Iowa he hoped sufficient gains would be made for him to be able to take a trip to help advance the negotiations "in a couple of weeks".

The continuation of the talks follows a major attack on a joint US-Afghan base in southwestern Afghanistan's Helmand province last week, with at least 23 security forces killed in the hours-long assault on one of the largest military installations in the country.

Heavy snowfall across large swathes of Afghanistan has led to a sharp reduction in violence this winter, but warmer weather in the country's south will likely spark an increase in bloodshed with the arrival of the spring fighting season.

Analysts have warned that the Taliban are likely to ramp up attacks in the coming months as they seek to maintain momentum on the battlefield and leverage at the negotiating table.

Story highlights

Earlier in the day, suicide bombers and gunmen attacked a construction company office in the Afghan city of Jalalabad, killing 16 employees of the Afghan company, a provincial official said.