Rocket attack near Afghan presidential palace


At least three rockets landed near the Afghan presidential palace on Tuesday as President Ashraf Ghani and a group of other leaders marked the start of Eidul Azha with prayers in the garden.

Taliban insurgents denied they were involved in the attack on the heavily fortified palace.

Spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters in a voice message the fighters were in a “state of defence” during the Eid religious holiday. Unlike some previous years, the Taliban have not officially declared a ceasefire for Eid this week.

Mujahid did not immediately reply when asked if the Taliban’s defensive stance constituted a ceasefire.

The early morning holiday calm was shattered by the sound of incoming rockets heard across the heavily fortified Green Zone that houses the presidential palace and several embassies, including the US mission.

In a video posted on the official palace Facebook page, dozens of men can be seen continuing with their prayers even as the rockets are heard overhead and exploding nearby.

President Ghani, dressed in traditional Afghan clothing and a turban, stands at the front and appears to not even flinch as the crowd bows together.

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

Interior ministry spokesman Mirwais Stanikzai said three rockets appeared to have been fired from a pickup truck. One did not detonate, he said. “Based on our initial information, we have no casualties,” he added. The palace was attacked last year as hundreds of people gathered to watch Ghani’s inaugura-tion ceremony, prompting some to flee.
The militant Islamic State group (IS) claimed responsibility for that attack, with no reports of casualties.

Tuesday’s attack coincides with a sweeping Taliban offensive across the country as foreign forces wind up a troop withdrawal scheduled to be complete by August 31.

It also comes a day after more than a dozen diplomatic missions in Kabul called for “an ur-gent end” to the insurgents’ ruthless military offensive, saying it was at odds with claims they want to secure a political deal to end the conflict.

The statement follows another round of in-conclusive talks in Doha over the weekend be-tween the Afghan government and the Taliban that many hoped would kickstart the ailing peace process.

“The Taliban’s offensive is in direct contradic-tion to their claim to support a negotiated set-tlement,” the joint statement by diplomatic mis-sions read.

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