Afghanistan: Rockets hit Kabul diplomatic area, clashes ongoing

At least nine rockets hit near the diplomatic area of the Afghan capital, Kabul, where President Ashraf Ghani was delivering a speech to mark the beginning of the Eid al-Adha holiday.

Afghan officials on Tuesday said fighting broke out between security forces and armed groups in the city’s old quarter, in which at least two people were wounded. 

The first rocket landed near the presidential palace where Ghani interrupted his speech after hearing a loud thud to say: “If they are thinking the rocket attack will keep the Afghans down, they are wrong.”

The second hit near the site of a NATO compound and the US Embassy, according to police official Jan Agha.

Military helicopters fired at fighters holed up near the Eidgah Mosque in the capital’s Reka Khana district, where smoke was rising as clashes were under way, according to AFP news agency.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, while Afghan police officials said the Taliban was behind the clashes. 

“This morning a group of terrorists took over a building in Reka Khana and fired several rockets towards Kabul,” Najib Danish a spokesman for the interior ministry told AFP.

Afghan security forces bombed a house where they believe the rockets were fired from, destroying the building.

The attack comes as the Taliban rejected a conditional ceasefire offer from the Afghan government on Monday, saying they would persist with their attacks.

Earlier on Monday, Taliban fighters ambushed three buses carrying nearly 200 passengers travelling for Eid in the northern Kunduz region.

Reuters news agency reported that 160 of them were later released, while at least 20 remain captive.

“More than 160 civilians have reached home safely but at least 20 soldiers and policemen have been taken to an undisclosed location by the Taliban,” Ghulam Rabani Rabani, a provincial council member in Kunduz, told Reuters.

Wave of attacks

Two Taliban commanders said their supreme leader rejected Ghani’s Sunday offer of a three-month ceasefire, beginning with this week’s Eid, Reuters reported.

In June, the Taliban observed a government ceasefireover the three-day Eid al-Fitr festival, leading to unprecedented scenes of government soldiers and Taliban fighters embracing on front lines, and raising hopes for talks.

But one of the Taliban commanders said the June ceasefire had helped US forces, who the Taliban are trying to drive out of the country. 

Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada rejected the new offer on the grounds that it too would only help the American-led mission.

The Taliban have launched a wave of attacks in recent weeks, including storming the city of Ghazni, where more than 100 people have been killed in the fighting.

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