Several people killed as barrage of rockets hit Kabul

At least 23 rockets targeted different residential areas in Afghanistan’s capital, killing at least eight people and wounding 31 others, official says.

At least eight people were killed and multiple others were wounded when a barrage of rockets struck densely populated parts of Kabul, marking the latest attack in an ongoing wave of violence sweeping the Afghan capital.

The salvo slammed into various parts of central and north Kabul – including near the heavily fortified Green Zone that houses embassies and international companies – just before 0430 GMT (9:00 am local time on Saturday).

“The terrorists fired 23 rockets on the city of Kabul. Based on the initial information, eight people were martyred, and 31 others were wounded,” said Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian, who blamed the Taliban for the attack.

Taliban rejected the government accusation while Daesh said it was behind the attack.

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

Photos and videos circulating online showed several buildings with damage to walls and windows, including at a large medical complex.

Peace talks

Taliban and Afghan government negotiators launched peace talks in Doha in September but progress has been slow.

Officials told AFP news agency 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 ending ‘forever wars’

Trump has repeatedly vowed to end “forever wars,” including in Afghanistan, America’s longest-ever conflict that began with an invasion to dislodge the Taliban following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

President-elect Joe Biden, in a rare point of agreement, also advocates winding down the Afghanistan war although analysts believe he will not be as wedded to a quick timetable.

Earlier this week, the Pentagon said it would soon pull some 2,000 troops out of Afghanistan, speeding up the timeline established in a February agreement between Washington and the Taliban that envisions a full US withdrawal in mid-2021.

In the past six months, the Taliban carried out 53 suicide attacks and 1,250 explosions that left 1,210 civilians dead and 2,500 wounded, interior ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said this week.