At least eight people were killed Saturday when a barrage of rockets struck densely populated parts of Kabul, the latest big attack in a wave of violence sweeping the Afghan capital.
The salvo slammed into various parts of central and north Kabul — including in and around the heavily fortified Green Zone that houses embassies and international firms — just before 9:00am.
The Iranian embassy said on Twitter that its main building had been hit by rocket fragments after one landed on the premises. No one in the compound, located just outside the Green Zone, was wounded.
Interior ministry spokesman Tariq Arian blamed the Taliban, saying ‘terrorists’ had fired a total of 23 rockets.
‘Based on initial information, eight people were martyred, and 31 others were wounded,’ Arian said, noting the final toll would change.
Kabul police spokesman Ferdaws Faramarz confirmed the same tolls and details.
The Taliban denied responsibility, saying they ‘do not blindly fire on public places’.
At least one rocket landed in an office inside the Green Zone, but did not explode.
Several buildings sustained damage to walls and windows, including at the large Sana Medical Complex.
Mariam Rahimi, 26, a nurse at the facility, said she had been thrown off her feet when a rocket struck the hospital.
‘The impact broke windows and tables and damaged some parts of a wall. I screamed for help and called other staff members to evacuate the children who were admitted at the hospital,’ Rahimi said.
‘I am scared and have a headache from the shock of the attack. These attackers must die, they don’t even spare hospitals.’
Recent major attacks in Kabul, including two horrific assaults on educational institutions that killed nearly 50 people, follow a familiar pattern in the aftermath, with the Taliban denying any involvement while the Afghan government pins the blame on them or their proxies.
‘The rocket attack in Kabul city has nothing to do with the mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate,’ Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, using the insurgents’ name for Afghanistan.
The Taliban are under pressure not to attack urban areas, having pledged not to do so under the terms of a US withdrawal deal signed in February.
Any acknowledgement of overt involvement in such incidents could in theory slow the American pull-out, though outgoing US President Donald Trump has made clear he wants US forces out regardless of the situation on the ground.
The Islamic State group claimed the two attacks on educational centres, but Kabul said the Taliban’s ultra-violent Haqqani network was responsible.
Taliban and Afghan government negotiators launched peace talks in Doha in September but progress has been slow and violence has raged across Afghanistan regardless.
Officials told AFP on Friday however that a breakthrough was expected to be announced in the coming days, and the US State Department announced late Friday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would meet negotiators from the Taliban and the Afghan government in Doha.
Trump has repeatedly vowed to end ‘forever wars’, including in Afghanistan, America’s longest-ever conflict, which began with an invasion to dislodge the Taliban following the September 11, 2001 attacks.
President-elect Joe Biden, in a rare point of agreement with Trump, also advocates winding down the Afghanistan war although analysts believe he will not be as wedded to a quick timetable.
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