Rocket attack on Afghan capital kills 8 as Pompeo arrives in Doha for peace talks

KABUL: At least eight people were killed on Saturday when a barrage of rockets struck densely populated parts of Kabul, the latest big attack in a wave of violence sweeping the Afghan capital.
The salvo slammed into various parts of central and north Kabul — including in and around the heavily fortified Green Zone that houses embassies and international firms — just before 9:00 am (0430 GMT).
The Iranian Embassy said on Twitter that its main building had been hit by rocket fragments after one landed on the premises. No one in the compound, located just outside the Green Zone, was wounded.
Interior ministry spokesman Tariq Arian blamed the Taliban, saying “terrorists” had fired a total of 23 rockets.
“Based on initial information, eight people were martyred, and 31 others were wounded,” Arian said, noting the final toll would change.
Kabul police spokesman Ferdaws Faramarz confirmed the same tolls and details.
The Taliban denied responsibility, saying they “do not blindly fire on public places”.
At least one rocket landed in an office inside the Green Zone, but did not explode. Several buildings sustained damage to walls and windows, including at the large Sana Medical Complex.
Mariam Rahimi, 26, a nurse at the facility, said she had been thrown off her feet when a rocket struck the hospital.
“The impact broke windows and tables and damaged some parts of a wall. I screamed for help and called other staff members to evacuate the children who were admitted at the hospital,” Rahimi said.
“I am scared and have a headache from the shock of the attack. These attackers must die, they don’t even spare hospitals.”
Recent major attacks in Kabul, including two horrific assaults on educational institutions that killed nearly 50 people, follow a familiar pattern in the aftermath, with the Taliban denying any involvement while the Afghan government pins the blame on them or their proxies.
DOHA TALKS
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Doha on Saturday to meet negotiators from the Afghan government and the Taliban, amid signs of progress in their talks as Washington speeds up its withdrawal. The State Department said that Pompeo will meet separately with the Afghan government and Taliban negotiation teams in the Qatari capital.
He will also see Qatar’s ruler, Emir Shaikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, and the foreign minister on his stop in Doha, the Taliban’s base for diplomacy.
The outgoing top US diplomat is on a seven-nation tour of Europe and the Middle East, as President Donald Trump shores up late-term priorities.
Earlier this 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 Taliban that envisions a full US withdrawal in mid-2021. — AFP