Several Killed as Rockets Hit Afghan Capital Kabul

Several rockets hit residential areas in the early rush hour in the Afghan capital Kabul on Saturday, killing at least eight civilians and wounding 31.

The attack happened hours before a meeting between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Taliban negotiators in an effort to resume peace talks.

In a statement, the Taliban denied involvement, saying they “do not blindly fire on public places”.

The explosions, some close to the diplomatic enclave, sent warning sirens blaring from embassies and it comes two days before a major donor conference for Afghanistan in Geneva.

Tariq Arian, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said at least eight civilians had been killed in the attack and 31 wounded. A health ministry official said five bodies and 21 injured were taken to the hospital from the incident.

Arian said “terrorists” mounted 14 rockets in a small truck and set them off, adding that an investigation is going on to find out how the vehicle came inside the city.

Some residents filmed the rockets being fired and posted them on social media. Several pictures circulating on Facebook showed damaged cars, shattered windows and holes in residential homes.

Since peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban stalled in the Qatari capital of Doha, attacks by the Taliban and other extremist groups have been on the rise, especially in the capital that is home to more than five million Afghans.

A regional Islamic State group also operates in the country and has been behind recent attacks in Kabul, including two assaults on educations institutions that killed nearly 50 people in recent weeks.

Earlier this week, the outgoing Trump administration announced plans to withdraw 2,000 troops from Afghanistan by mid-January. The decision was criticised amid concerns the sharp, fast reduction of troops would weaken the Afghan government’s ability to deal with a resurgent Taliban and other militants.
Pompeo is to meet representatives from the Taliban and the Afghan government in the Qatari capital Doha later. There are suggestions the US and the Taliban are finally close to signing off on the preliminary issues they have been discussing so far.

Many analysts fear the Afghan army is not strong enough to fight on its own if violence continues after foreign troops have left.

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