Rockets hit Kabul ahead of President's Eid speech

Afghan traffic police stand near a damaged vehicle where rockets were fired from in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 20, 2021. (Rahmat Gul/AP)

At least three rockets fell in Kabul on Tuesday, just hours before President Ashraf Ghani delivered a speech commemorating the start of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.

The first rocket attack on Kabul since the Taliban launched a series of offensives to coincide with the ultimate withdrawal of Western forces from the war-torn country, despite no immediate claim of credit.

The sound of approaching missiles disturbed the early morning holiday serenity heard across the strongly defended Green Zone, which includes the presidential palace as well as other embassies, including the US mission.

“All the rockets hit three different parts,” claimed Mirwais Stanikzai, a spokesman for the interior ministry.

Three rockets appeared to have been fired from a pickup truck, according to him.

He stated, "Based on our initial information, we have no casualties."

Ghani began an address to the country minutes after the incident, in the presence of some of his top officials.

Last year, when hundreds of people gathered to see Ghani's inauguration ceremony, the presidential palace was attacked, leading some to leave.

The two bombs were claimed by the extremist Islamic State group (IS), however, there were no reports of deaths.

Tuesday's strike comes as the Taliban launches a massive offensive across the country as foreign forces near the end of a troop pullout that is set to end on August 31.

It also comes a day after more than a dozen diplomatic missions in Kabul urged for an “immediate halt” to the insurgents' merciless military advance, claiming it contradicted their claims of wanting to reach a political settlement to end the conflict.

The declaration comes after another round of fruitless discussions between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Doha over the weekend, which many hoped would jumpstart the stalled peace process.

There has been little improvement.

The statement added, "The Taliban's offensive is in direct contradiction to their claim to support a negotiated settlement."

“It has resulted in the deaths of innocent Afghans, including through targeted killings, civilian displacement, looting and burning of buildings, destruction of vital infrastructure, and communication network damage.”

The two parties have been meeting in Qatari capital Doha on and off for months but have achieved nothing, with discussions appearing to have stalled while the extremists make military gains.

Late Sunday, they issued a joint statement saying they agreed on the need to find a "just solution" and that they will meet again next week.

On Monday, Abdullah Abdullah, who oversees the Afghan government's delegation, told AFP, "We also agreed that there should be no pause in the negotiations."

Despite urgent pleas from Afghan civil society and the international community to end the war, he emphasized that neither side was currently pursuing a joint ceasefire during the discussions.

Previously, the Taliban and the government established ceasefires around religious holidays.

Following the weekend summit, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that his government planned to begin negotiations with the Taliban over the Taliban's unwillingness to allow Ankara to control Kabul airport after US troops leave Afghanistan.

Turkey has been in talks with US defense officials about securing the airport, which is crucial for countries wanting to keep diplomatic missions in Afghanistan after the troops leave.

The Taliban branded Turkey's offer "reprehensible" last week.

Meanwhile, fighting in Afghanistan continued, with both the Taliban and the government claiming victories in different sections of the nation.

Even as the hardline Islamist organization continues its offensives, the Taliban's top leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, claimed over the weekend that he "strenuously favors" a political settlement.

As Western soldiers prepare to leave by late August, the Taliban have begun gaining districts, seizing border crossings, and surrounding provincial capitals.

The State Department announced in Washington that 700 interpreters and their immediate family members fleeing Afghanistan will be transferred to an army installation in Virginia.

Publish : 2021-07-20 13:34:00

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