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Rockets land near Afghan presidential palace during Eid prayers

Footage shown on the national television channel Tolo TV showed Ghani and the group calmly continuing their prayers at the open-air palace rally as security guards rushed out of the crowd.

The three rockets were fired at around 8:30 a.m. local time from Kabul Police District 4, landing in Police Districts 1 and 2, near the presidential palace compound, the Interior Ministry said on Tuesday. There were no casualties, he said. A spokesperson for Abdullah Abdullah, an Afghan official who heads the High Council for National Reconciliation, said the rocket attack was “very near”.

Taliban insurgents have denied participating in the attack on the heavily fortified palace, Reuters reported. Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters in a voicemail that the fighters were in “a state of defense” during the religious holiday of Eid. However, unlike in some previous years, the Taliban did not officially declare an Eid ceasefire this week.

Mujahid did not immediately respond when asked if the Taliban’s defensive stance constituted a ceasefire, Reuters reported. A similar incident had already occurred during Ghani’s inauguration in March 2020, when the ceremony was disrupted by the sound of two rockets hitting the edge of the presidential palace compound.

Tuesday’s incident comes as concerns continue to mount for the country’s future: the Taliban have gradually taken control of the country as US and NATO troops close to completing their withdrawal.
According to the Long War Journal, which tracks territorial control in Afghanistan, the Taliban have more than tripled the number of districts they control (from 73 to 221) since US President Joe Biden announced the withdrawal of US forces on the 14th. April.

The fighting has increased since the announcement, leaving tens of thousands of civilians displaced across the country.

Earlier this month, Biden announced that the military withdrawal would be completed by the end of August, weeks ahead of schedule. This process is now over 95% complete, according to US Central Command.

The accelerated advance of the Taliban across the country is raising concerns about the future of the war-torn nation. Biden, however, has firmly defended his decision to end the war there, saying this month that no sustained presence in the country could solve his problems and that it is up to the Afghans to defend their country.

About 11,000 Afghan special forces – who are trained by the United States and better equipped than regular units – are increasingly in demand as the Taliban intensify their attacks across the country. Without American air support or intelligence gathering, their mission became more difficult.

Recent US intelligence assessments have suggested that the country’s civilian government could fall into the hands of the militant group in the months following the withdrawal of US forces. Austin Scott, the top US general there, warned on Tuesday that escalating violence could lead to civil war.

Growing terrorist attacks reinforce these assessments.

Rockets land near Afghan presidential palace during Eid prayers
Last week, Taliban fighters killed 22 Afghan special forces as they tried to surrender. The executions contrast sharply with the Taliban’s efforts to show that they accept the surrender of the soldiers.

In a statement, the Taliban said “thousands of soldiers” had “defected and embraced the open arms of the Islamic Emirate,” which they claim is the true leadership of the Afghan people.

On Monday, 15 diplomatic missions and the NATO representative in Kabul called for an urgent end to the Taliban’s ongoing military offensive, calling it “thwarts efforts to reach a negotiated solution to the conflict and injures and displaces the civilian population “. The statement was issued shortly after the militant group and the Afghan government failed to agree on a ceasefire during talks in Doha.

CNN’s Kevin Liptak, Anna Coren, Sandi Sidhu, Tim Lister and Abdul Basir Bina contributed reporting.


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