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    Tuesday, 21 August 2018

    Kabul attacks come to an end, 2 militants killed, says Afghan military

    An hours-long attack in the Afghan capital Kabul ended on Tuesday after two militants were killed in a clearance operation, the military said. At least six people were injured.
    “Two attackers were involved. The enemy was firing mortars,” General Murad Ali Murad, commander of Kabul's garrison, told a press conference.
    Multiple rockets hit near the diplomatic area in the Afghan capital, Kabul earlier today as officials said fighting broke out between security forces and militants in the city's old quarter.
    It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the assault, which came as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was making a speech marking the first day of the Eidul Azha, days after offering the Taliban a conditional three-month ceasefire.
    An Afghan army helicopter swooped in low over the street near the Eidgah Mosque in a central district of the city and fired a rocket on a militant position, sending a plume of dust into the sky.
    Interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish confirmed that militants had taken over a building near the mosque and fired several rockets.
    “Two people have been wounded. Security forces are fighting the terrorists,” he told AFP.
    People who moments earlier had been buying livestock for the Eid feast could be seen sprinting for shelter as cars swerved in the road to flee the fighting. Blasts and gunfire could be heard as security forces cordoned off the area.
    The attackers appeared to be in a building behind the mosque, which was partially destroyed in another attack several years earlier and is not believed to have been in use for Eid.
    A heavy security presence could also be seen near the Kabul Stadium.
    Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai said fighting began around 9:00 am, and that multiple rockets had been fired on at least two areas of Kabul. He said he could not confirm casualties as yet.
    “Some attackers have taken a position behind the Eidgah mosque of Kabul city. The police forces are at the scene, and the area is blocked by forces. An operation has been launched to arrest or gun the attackers down,” he said.
    The mosque is located relatively near the presidential palace, where Ghani was speaking. The sound of a blast could be heard in the background as his speech was aired live on Facebook.
     The move followed an extraordinarily violent week in Afghanistan that saw that Taliban storm the provincial capital of Ghazni just a two-hour drive from Kabul and press the fight against security forces across the country, with estimates suggesting hundreds of people may have been killed.
    Analyst Nazar Sarmachar said the proximity of the rockets to the presidential palace as Ghani was speaking highlighted glaring security shortcomings in the capital.
    "Had a rocket landed in the backyard of the palace it could have killed or wounded the president," he said.
    The truce proposal came after an initial ceasefire in June, the first since the US-led invasion in 2001 that toppled the Taliban regime.
    For three days thousands of insurgents poured into cities across Afghanistan, eating ice cream and posing for selfies with security forces to celebrate.
    The brief respite spurred hopes that a new path was opening for possible peace talks in the country.
    The Taliban have long insisted on direct talks with Washington and refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, which they see as illegitimate.
    In June Washington indicated a change in its longstanding policy, with US officials meeting Taliban representatives in Doha in July.
    However, State Department official Alice Wells told AFP Monday that any future peace talks must include the Kabul government, and would not take place directly between the Taliban and Washington.

    Islamabad condemns the attack

    Prime Minister Imran Khan strongly condemned the rocket attack near the Afghan presidential palace, stating that targeting innocent people on the religious feast "depicts a defeated mindset".
    The prime minister expressed his complete support to the Afghan government as well as Afghan people.
    Earlier in the day, the Foreign Office had also denounced the attack.
    FO spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal had taken to Twitter to say: "Pakistan condemns reports of attacks at the Afghan presidential palace. Such incidents, especially at the joyous occasion of Eid, are more reprehensible."

    Ghani's ceasefire offer

    Ghani had unveiled hus government's latest ceasefire gambit during an Independence Day address late Sunday, saying security forces would observe the truce beginning this week — but only if the militants reciprocated.
    The truce offer was welcomed by the United States and Nato after nearly 17 years of war, but the Taliban have yet to respond.
    The move followed an extraordinarily violent week in Afghanistan that saw that Taliban storm the provincial capital of Ghazni — just a two-hour drive from Kabul — and press the fight against security forces across the country, with estimates suggesting hundreds of people may have been killed.
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