Rockets Blast Kabul on Afghan Independence Day
By Ayesha Tanzeem August 18, 2020
Fourteen rockets landed in Kabul Tuesday morning, some of them very close to where President Ashraf Ghani was participating in an official ceremony marking the country's 101st independence day.
The attack, close to Kabul's diplomatic enclave, sent emergency sirens blazing in most foreign embassies, the United Nations and NATO headquarters in Kabul, and sent staff scrambling to get to safe rooms.
VOA reporters in Kabul said the warning alarms started around 9:30 a.m. and continued for a while.
"All diplomatic officials in embassies in the green zone have been moved to safe rooms in the diplomatic district until clearance orders," a senior Western security official told Reuters.
An interior ministry spokesman, Tariq Aryan, said the rockets were fired from two vehicles and wounded 10 civilians, including four children and a woman.
Tuesday was an official holiday in the country and due to the special ceremony, all roads to the presidential palace and green zone were closed for traffic.
Two suspects have been arrested in connection with the attacks. According to SITE Intelligence Group, Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) has taken responsibility for the attack.
The attack was similar to the rockets fired during the presidential inauguration in May. ISKP, the local Islamic State chapter, had claimed responsibility for that one.
The explosions come at a time when the start of peace talks with the Taliban, which seemed almost imminent last week, has hit another road block.
France and Australia have asked Afghanistan not to release Taliban prisoners involved in the killing of their citizens.
"France asks the Afghan government not to proceed with the release of several terrorists convicted of killing French citizens in Afghanistan, in particular soldiers and humanitarian workers," the French embassy in Kabul tweeted Sunday.
Taliban had demanded the release of 5,000 of their prisoners before they would sit down for any negotiation.
The United States agreed to the release in a deal it signed with the group in February in which the Afghan government was not a party. Since then, the Afghans have resisted releasing the militants, claiming some were dangerous and may go back to the battlefield.
The issue seemed almost resolved last week after Ghani held a loya jirga, a traditional grand assembly of influential Afghans, that supported the release of the contentious last batch of 400 prisoners, the only ones left out of the 5,000.
Meanwhile, the Afghan government and its international partners have urged the Taliban to keep the level of violence low in the country.
"We stand behind your #ANDSF security forces as they secure peace in #Afghanistan. Now is the time to reduce violence and build a political path towards peace," tweeted the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Scott Miller in his independence day felicitations.
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