ISIS claims rocket attack on Kabul; at least 8 killed

Security personnel inspecting a damaged vehicle after the attack in Kabul yesterday. The explosions, which took place close to the diplomatic enclave, sent warning sirens blaring from embassies and came two days before a major donor conference for Af
Security personnel inspecting a damaged vehicle after the attack in Kabul yesterday. The explosions, which took place close to the diplomatic enclave, sent warning sirens blaring from embassies and came two days before a major donor conference for Afghanistan in Geneva.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

KABUL • Several rockets hit residential areas during the early rush hour in the Afghan capital Kabul yesterday, killing at least eight civilians and wounding 31, police officials said.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group claimed responsibility for the attack.

In a statement on its Telegram channels, the militant group said 28 Katyusha rockets fired by "soldiers of the caliphate" hit Kabul's heavily fortified Green Zone that houses "the presidential palace, embassies of Crusader states, and the headquarters of Afghan forces".

The explosions, close to the diplomatic enclave, sent warning sirens blaring from embassies and came two days before a major donor conference for Afghanistan in Geneva.

Mr Tariq Arian, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said eight civilians had been killed in the attack and 31 wounded.

A Health Ministry official said five dead and 21 injured people were taken to the hospital.

Mr Arian said "terrorists" mounted the rockets in a small truck and set them off, adding that an investigation is going on to find out how the vehicle came inside the city.

Some residents filmed the rockets being fired and posted the footage on social media. Several pictures circulating on Facebook showed damaged cars and a hole in the side of a building.

A picture of a young brother and sister, whom officials said were killed in their home, was widely shared on Facebook.

One of the rockets landed in the vicinity of the Iranian embassy and several fragments hit the main building, but there were no casualties among the staff, the embassy said in a statement.

Early this month, several gunmen stormed the Kabul University campus and killed at least 35, most of them students, and wounded more than 50. The attack was also claimed by ISIS.

Since peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taleban have stalled, attacks by the Taleban and other extremist groups have been on the rise, especially in the capital that is home to more than five million Afghans.

Taleban insurgents, fighting against a foreign-backed Kabul administration, denied involvement in the attack.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo travelled to Qatar yesterday to meet an Afghan delegation and Taleban negotiators.

The State Department said late Friday that Mr Pompeo will meet separately with the Afghan government and Taleban negotiation teams in the Gulf state of Qatar.

Last week, the Pentagon said it would soon pull some 2,000 troops out of Afghanistan, speeding up the timeline established in a February agreement between Washington and the Taleban that envisions a full United States withdrawal by mid-next year.

Mr Trump has repeatedly vowed to end "forever wars", including in Afghanistan, where America's longest-ever conflict began with an invasion to dislodge the Taleban following the Sept 11, 2001 attacks.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 22, 2020, with the headline 'ISIS claims rocket attack on Kabul; at least 8 killed'. Print Edition | Subscribe