Rocket attacks hit Kabul during Ghani’s Eid speech

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Kabul, Aug 21 (IANS) A series of rocket attacks shook the Afghan capital on Tuesday during President Ashraf Ghani’s address to the nation on the eve of Eid-ul-Zuha.

There were no reports of casualties in the attacks and no group claimed immediate responsibility. But according to reports, the assault appeared to be a rejection by Taliban insurgents of Ghani’s offer for a conditional three-month truce.

As Ghani addressed the nation, the explosions were first heard near the Presidential Palace and then across the city.

Officials said at least 12 rockets were fired but Kabul residents said they counted as many as 22. Television images showed dark smoke rising into the sky, TOLO News reported.

Without flinching, Ghani said in his address: “If they are thinking the rocket attack will keep Afghans down, they are wrong.”

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“We announced a ceasefire providing it is bilateral… But all were ready to believe that some groups and individuals who believe in plots and bloodletting will resort today to acts that would jeopardize the tranquillity of the Afghan nation.”

The country’s Interior Minister later said that three attackers were killed by a helicopter gunship that bombed the warehouse they were holed up in near the Defence Ministry, several blocks away from the Presidential Palace.

According to a BBC report, four people were wounded, two of them security personnel.

Separately, officials said the Taliban had released more than 160 bus passengers kidnapped a day earlier in the north. At least 20 soldiers and policemen were still being held.

On Sunday, Ghani proposed a ceasefire from August 20 to November 20 (birth anniversary of Prophet Muhammad, or Milad-ul-Nabi). However, it remains in limbo pending a response from the Taliban.

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The militant group has launched several attacks in the last few weeks. The largest was an assault on the city of Ghazni, which sparked a five-day battle with government forces that left hundreds dead or wounded.

–IANS

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