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Rockets Hit Kabul During Eid Festivities


FILE - Taliban fighters gather in Surkhroad district of Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan.

A barrage of rockets hit Kabul Tuesday morning, just as President Ashraf Ghani was live on air delivering his address for the Muslim holy festival Eid-al-Adha in a special ceremony at the presidential palace. At least one rocket landed near the palace in Kabul’s green zone.

The Afghan Taliban deny responsibility for Tuesday's rocket attacks on Kabul.

Kabul police said a group of five suicide bombers hid behind Kabul’s Eidgah mosque and fired multiple rockets from there towards various parts of town. A security source confirmed at least ten rockets were fired but local media is reporting more. Four of the suicide bombers have died in clashes with the local security forces. At least one policeman has been wounded. Afghan ToloNews reported a military helicopter was seen targeting the attackers hideout near Eidgah mosque.

President Ghani, who continued his address, said Afghans cannot be cowed by such attacks. He also said the government was prepared for such an incident on Eid.

Hashmatullah Stanikzai, a spokesman for Kabul police, said the police have seized a vehicle belonging to the attackers, but clearing operations continued in the area.

The attack came two days after the Afghan president offered a three month cease fire to the Taliban conditional on them reciprocating. The Taliban have not officially responded but some Taliban sources said the leadership had told local military commanders to cease fighting for the days that Afghans were celebrating Eid.

In a press conference Monday, presidential spokesman Haroon Chakhansuri said the government would not honor an unannounced cease fire.

The first and only cease fire from both sides was in June this year, over Eid-ul-Fitr, another holy festival. The several days of peace across the country saw Taliban fighters heading to the cities, meeting their families and friends, taking selfies and praying with their battlefield enemies in the Afghan security forces. The fighters told journalists they were tired of fighting but would follow the orders of their Amir or supreme commander.

That cease fire raised hopes that the two sides were ready to start a dialogue to end two decades of hostilities. Since then, the United States has also addressed two of the Taliban’s main demands by indicating that it was willing to engage with them directly and discuss the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

Tuesday is also the International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism established last year by the United Nations General Assembly. In its message, the U.N. said victims of terrorist attacks victims are too soon forgotten.

“We rarely hear about those who were killed and injured; the ordinary women, men, girls and boys, who were going about their daily business when their lives ended or were changed forever. We rarely hear about their surviving families, friends and communities, who must learn to live with the burden of terrorism for their entire lives,” the message said, adding, “We need to provide victims with long-term assistance, including financial, legal, medical and psychosocial support.”