News / Asia

Explosions, Gunfire Mar Opening of Afghan Peace Jirga

Multimedia

Audio
Sean Maroney

The streets of Kabul echoed with insurgent gunfire and explosions late Wednesday morning as representatives from all over Afghanistan met for the first day of the National Consultative Peace Jirga.

Afghan organizers say the goal of the peace conference is to reach a consensus for a road map to reconcile with Taliban insurgents and others fighting against the government and coalition forces. But insurgents did not want to talk.

As President Hamid Karzai addressed the assembly, a rocket explosion outside the massive tent constructed in western Kabul briefly interrupted him. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

The 1,600 delegates reacted calmly as the president noted that this was not the first time they had heard this type of thing. Police later said the explosion was caused by a rocket fired near the jirga campus.

Following the attack, Mr. Karzai continued his speech and took a moment to address Taliban insurgents in their native language of Pashto.

He said the Taliban is welcome in their own homeland, but he urged them to not hurt Afghanistan or themselves. He said all Afghans are brothers, and they should approach each other in peace. He also promised to listen to their advice on how to build Afghanistan.

The president also said the jirga has given Afghans tremendous hope, and that in the next couple of days, the delegates will have a chance to deliver a message of peace and friendship, not only for Afghanistan, but for the rest of the world.

Following Mr. Karzai's speech, jirga organizers rushed members of the media out of the area after another rocket whistled overhead and exploded within 100 meters of the tent.

Sounds of sporadic gunfire rang out in a nearby neighborhood, as Afghan helicopters circled overhead.

Taliban officials said they had sent four, heavily armed suicide bombers to target the jirga.

Government officials said security forces shot and killed two suicide bombers trying to infiltrate the assembly wearing burqas, and they arrested a third.

Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Zamary Bashary also said Afghan forces had surrounded a home near the conference site where the remaining militants were hiding.

The jirga is Afghan-led, but foreign diplomats, including the top U.S. military commander in the country, General Stanley McChrystal, attended the opening ceremony.

The United Nations' special representative for Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, also attended and spoke with reporters about the Taliban attack on the gathering.

"The Taliban are not sitting inside the tent. They are the ones who should be sitting one day, once they've given up on this type of violence and once they've accepted at least one or two rules of the game," said Mistura.

Prior to the conference, the Taliban dismissed its importance, calling the current Afghan government "powerless" and demanding that all foreign troops leave Afghanistan.

Critics of Mr. Karzai's government also say the jirga does not address the concerns of ordinary Afghans.

Despite the violence, delegates are meeting in smaller committees, where they will work to find a consensus for peace during the next couple of days.

You May Like

Diplomats Work to Extend Israeli-Palestinian Cease-Fire

US Secretary of State John Kerry, diplomats from France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Turkey and Qatar gathered in Paris Saturday to discuss crisis More

Photogallery US Defense Department Warns of Arms to Eastern Ukraine

‘Imminent’ delivery of Russian rocket launcher poses threat to civilians, US says More

Video Researchers: Africa Genetically Modified Crops Held Back by Scaremongering

GM crops offer best hope of increasing productivity and coping with climate change in Africa, according to co-author of Chatham House report More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid