IS attack hits Afghan capital; Pompeo joins peace talks

Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan (November 21, 2020) — Mortars slammed into a residential area of the Afghan capital, killing eight people Saturday, hours before U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held meetings with the Taliban and Afghan government negotiators trying to hammer out a peace deal.

The attack in Kabul, which was blamed on Islamic State terrorists, also injured 31 people.

The assault came as peace talks were underway in Qatar, where Pompeo told Afghan government negotiators that the U.S. will “sit on the side and help where we can” in the negotiations with the Taliban.

Two Taliban officials told The Associated Press that the two warring sides have found common ground on which to move forward the stalled talks. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media, did not elaborate.

In Kabul, at least one of the 23 mortar shells fired from two cars hit inside the Iranian Embassy compound. No one was injured, but it damaged the main building, the Iranian Embassy said in a tweet. At least 31 people were hurt elsewhere in the city, according to the Afghan Interior Ministry.

The local Islamic State affiliate issued a statement claiming the attack that targeted the so-called Green Zone in Kabul which houses foreign embassies, the presidential palace and Afghan military compounds, according to SITE Intelligence Group.

In Doha, Pompeo also met with the co-founder of the Taliban, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who signed the peace agreement with Washington in February ahead of the so-called intra-Afghan talks. The group’s spokesman, Mohammad Naeem, tweeted that further prisoner releases were discussed in the meeting, in addition to those that the two warring sides committed to ahead of peace talks under the U.S. deal.

Naeem said the Taliban also repeated their demand that Taliban leaders be removed from the United Nations sanctions list. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed earlier Saturday issued a statement assailing the Afghan government for requesting the U.N. maintain sanctions on Taliban leaders.

For most Afghans, the overriding concern has been a sharp rise in violence this year and a surge of attacks by the Taliban against Afghanistan’s beleaguered security forces, since the start of peace talks in September.

The announcement this week that the United States will accelerate its planned troop withdrawal has lent greater urgency to the intra-Afghan negotiations and to the calls for a reduction in violence. Washington announced it would withdraw another estimated 2,500 troops before the middle of January leaving about 2,000 American soldiers in Afghanistan.

The Taliban have, however, held to their promise not to attack U.S. and NATO troops.

The United States has been pressing in recent weeks for a reduction in violence, while the Afghan government has been demanding a cease-fire. The Taliban have refused, saying a cease-fire will be part of negotiations.

Abdullah Abdullah, head of the government’s High Council for Reconciliation, condemned in a tweet Saturday’s attack on the capital, calling it a “cowardly” act. The council oversees the government’s negotiating team at the table with the Taliban in Doha.

Pakistan, whose Prime Minister Imran Khan visited on Tuesday Kabul for the first time since he came to office, condemned the attack and warned “it is important to be vigilant against the spoilers who are working to undermine the peace efforts.” He did not identify “the spoilers.”

Hours before the attack rattled Kabul, a bomb attached to a car killed one security personnel and wounded three others in an eastern neighborhood of the capital, said Kabul police spokesman Ferdaws Faramarz.

Violence in Afghanistan has spiked in recent months with increasingly horrific attacks often claimed by the Islamic State group affiliate.

Comments

We moderate all reader comments, usually within 24 hours of posting (longer on weekends). Please limit your comment to 300 words or less and ensure it addresses the article - NOT another reader's comments. Comments that contain a link (URL), an inordinate number of words in ALL CAPS, rude remarks directed at other readers, or profanity/vulgarity will not be approved. More details

SIGN UP FOR OUR DAILY NEWS BRIEF

FEATURED PODCAST

VOTE IN OUR POLL

On a Thanksgiving dinner table, the best meat to put on my plate is…

CAST YOUR VOTE

GET PUSH NOTIFICATIONS

SUBSCRIBE

LATEST AP HEADLINES

27 COVID deaths at Illinois vets nursing home prompts probe
Boy, 15, charged in Wisconsin mall shooting that injured 8
New estimate confirms dramatic economic growth
China welcomes Biden's potential White House victory
California OK'd aid in name of Scott Peterson, other killers

LATEST FROM THE WEB

A barcode for everyone? China stokes COVID fears to launch global tracking system
Racism is alive and well in America
What will it take for Americans to push back?
Biden's 'return to normalcy' is going to be terrible
Forcing the sick and elderly to die alone is crueler than COVID-19

CARTOON OF THE DAY

Cartoon of the Day
NEXT STORY
China welcomes Biden's potential White House victory

BEIJING (November 25, 2020) — Chinese President Xi Jinping congratulated U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday and expressed hope for “win-win cooperation" amid conflicts over trade, technology and security.