Rockets land near Afghan presidential palace as Eid al-Adha lands. marks

At least three rockets landed near the Afghan presidential palace on Tuesday as the country’s leader, Ashraf Ghani, held out prayers with top officials to mark the start of the Islamic Eid al-Adha holiday.

Although responsibility was not immediately claimed, it was the first rocket attack on Kabul since the Taliban launched a series of offensives that coincided with the final withdrawal of foreign troops from the war-ravaged country.

The early morning calm was disturbed by incoming missiles heard over the heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses the presidential palace and several embassies, including the US mission.

In a video posted to the palace’s official Facebook page, dozens of men gathered in the gardens continued their prayers even as the rockets whiz overhead and explode nearby.

President Ghani, dressed in traditional Afghan clothing and a turban, does not seem to flinch as he continues the prayer ritual.

“The Taliban have proven that they have no will and intent for peace,” he said in a speech afterwards.

Interior Ministry spokesman Mirwais Stanikzai said three rockets were fired from a pickup truck, but one failed to explode.

“Based on our initial information, we have no casualties,” he added.

The palace was attacked last year as hundreds of people gathered for Ghani’s inauguration for a second term as president, forcing some to flee.

The jihadist Islamic State group (IS) has claimed responsibility.

The Taliban have declared a ceasefire over the past Islamic holidays, giving a reprieve to Afghans who can visit their families in relative safety, but no such offer has been made on this occasion.

symbolic attack

Ibraheem Bahiss, an adviser to the International Crisis Group, said Tuesday’s attack was symbolic, designed to demonstrate the scope of militants active in Afghanistan.

“The fact that these have landed so close to the presidential palace…shows that these attacks have the potential to be quite deadly,” he added.

The Taliban have taken advantage of the final stages of the withdrawal of US and other foreign troops from Afghanistan to launch a sweeping campaign, capturing dozens of districts, border crossings and surrounding provincial capitals.

The speed and ease of the Taliban offensive is a huge psychological blow to the Afghan government.

The latest attack comes a day after more than a dozen diplomatic missions in Kabul called for “an urgent end” to the insurgents’ relentless military offensive, saying it ran counter to claims they want to make a political deal. to end the conflict.

That statement followed another round of inconclusive talks in Doha over the weekend between the Afghan government and the Taliban, which many hoped would kick-start the ailing peace process.

The Taliban’s offensive is in direct contradiction to their claim to support a negotiated settlement, the statement said.

“It has resulted in the loss of innocent Afghan lives, including through continued targeted killings, displacement of the civilian population, looting and burning of buildings, destruction of vital infrastructure and damage to communications networks.”

to call a ceasefire

For months, the two sides have met occasionally in the Qatari capital, but achieved little, with negotiations appearing to have lost momentum as the militants win the battlefield.

A joint statement late Sunday said they agreed on the need to find a “just solution” and meet again next week.

“We also agreed that there should be no pause in the negotiations,” Abdullah Abdullah, who oversees the Afghan government’s delegation, told AFP on Monday.

He noted, however, that neither side was currently pursuing a joint ceasefire during the talks, despite urgent calls from Afghan civil society and the international community to end the fighting.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that Istanbul is ready to take over Kabul airport if its NATO ally the United States meets certain conditions.

Turkey has negotiated an offer with US defense officials to secure the airport, which is essential to allow countries to maintain a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan after the troop withdrawal.

Erdogan told journalists in a televised speech from Nicosia, in northern Cyprus, that the US should not only provide logistical, financial and administrative support, but also “assist us in diplomatic relations”.

>> Turkey offers help to secure Afghan airport, but has Erdogan bitten off more than he can chew?

Last week, the Taliban called Turkey’s offer to protect the airport “reprehensible”.

Over the weekend, the Taliban’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, said he is a “strong supporter” for a political settlement, even as the hardline Islamist movement continues its offensives.

In Washington, the State Department said about 700 interpreters and their immediate families fleeing Afghanistan will be transferred to an army base in the state of Virginia.

(AFP)

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