Three American service members and contractor killed in Afganistan - US military

The militants launched their assault ahead of a widely expected spring offensive

Fighting also has intensified in other parts of Afghanistan with the advent of spring, despite USA -led efforts to reach a peace deal with the Taliban.

Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke tweeted his condolences, saying: "Our thoughts are with the families of the three service members killed today in Afghanistan".

Three American soldiers were wounded in the blast and were receiving medical treatment, the statement also said. The explosion occurred near Bagram air base, 50km (31 miles) north of the capital Kabul.

A total of seven United States military members have died in Afghanistan in 2019. Afghan officials said the blast killed a police officer and a civilian while eight other people were injured.

The Taliban has reportedly claimed responsibility for the suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) attack. The conflicting accounts could not be immediately reconciled.

The deadly blast unfolded as the Trump administration - including Zalmay Khalilzad, an Afghan-born former USA ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq - is engaged in peace talks with the Taliban. The Taliban have refused to meet with the Afghan government, which they view as a US puppet.

Last year, 13 US service members were killed in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the Taliban have agreed to take part in an all-Afghan gathering later this month in Qatar, where the insurgents maintain a political office.

The blast brings to seven the number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan so far this year, compared to 12 killed in all of 2018.

Abdullah said the Taliban could partake in elections and even compete for the presidency if they renounce violence.

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