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Kabul pounded by rockets in latest Afghan attack

A man exits a shop damaged by rocket fire in Kabul's Shar-e-Now neighborhood on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020.

PHILLIP WALTER WELLMAN/STARS AND STRIPES

By PHILLIP WALTER WELLMAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 21, 2020

KABUL, Afghanistan — At least eight people were killed and dozens wounded when rockets landed on various parts of the Afghan capital Saturday morning, a government official said.

The attack followed two magnetic bomb blasts in other parts of the city earlier in the day and add to a spate of violence that’s continued throughout the country despite ongoing peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

The sound of rocket fire followed by explosions could be heard shortly before 9 a.m. in densely populated areas around Kabul’s heavily fortified Green Zone, where the U.S. Embassy and NATO’s Afghanistan headquarters are located.

One of the rockets landed on the Iranian Embassy compound, but wounded no one, the embassy said in a statement.

Aliya Azizi, a resident of the Qala-e-Musa neighborhood, said at least two rockets fell near her house and shattered its windows.

“We were having breakfast and suddenly there was some noise and then large explosions that shook the entire house,” Azizi told Stars and Stripes, adding that the blasts injured some of her neighbors.

In the nearby area of Shar-e-Now, several businesses and a bakery van were destroyed, with donuts and glass littering the street.

The Taliban, who have pledged not to attack cities as part of a February deal with the U.S., quickly denied involvement and no other group immediately claimed responsibility.

The attack included 23 rockets fired from two vehicles parked north of the city, Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said. In addition to the deaths, at least 31 people were wounded, Arian said.

Afghan peace negotiator Abdullah Abdullah condemned the violence on Twitter, calling it “cowardly.”

“Terrorizing and targeting the civilians must stop,” Abdullah said.

Earlier in the day, two separate magnetic bombs exploded, with one in eastern Kabul killing a police officer and wounding three others, Kabul police spokesman Ferdous Faramarz said.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul on Saturday advised Americans in Afghanistan to maintain a high level of vigilance.

“The security situation in Afghanistan is extremely unstable, and the threat to all U.S. citizens in Afghanistan remains critical,” the security alert said.

Saturday’s attacks came just hours before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was to hold separate meetings with Taliban and Afghan government negotiators in Qatar amid stalled peace talks between the sides.

Under February’s U.S.-Taliban deal, all international forces could pull out of Afghanistan by May if certain conditions are met.

Earlier this week, the Pentagon announced it would reduce the number of American troops in the country to 2,500 by mid-January, despite previous military assessments that called for a larger footprint due to the situation on the ground.

Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.

wellman.phillip@stripes.com
Twitter: @pwwellman

An Afghan security official patrols a section of road in the Shar-e-Now area of Kabul, which was hit by rockets on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020.
PHILLIP WALTER WELLMAN/STARS AND STRIPES