Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 5 December 2020

Rocket attacks on Afghan capital Kabul leave at least eight dead

The attack saw 23 rockets land in a densely populated residential area

At least eight people were killed and more than 30 wounded on Saturday morning when a series of rockets struck densely populated residential parts of Kabul.

According to the Interior Ministry, 23 rockets landed in Kabul just minutes after separate explosions took place in two other city suburbs.

Saturday’s attacks are part of a wave of violence sweeping the Afghan capital with a worrying trend of targeting schools, universities, hospitals, restaurants, residential buildings and public places.

The rockets hit in the heart of the city right during rush hour, damaging a hospital’s paediatric ward, a major shopping and restaurant district as well as residential buildings.

Interior Ministry spokesperson Tariq Arian tweeted that 23 rockets were fired from two vehicles around 8:40 in the morning, adding that, “unfortunately the rockets hit residential areas.”

Share-Naw - New City in English – is the vibrant heart of Kabul hit by many of the rockets that slammed into one of the city’s commercial centres and an affluent residential area, home to several government ministries, offices, hospitals and NGO compounds.

ISIS claimed the attack that the Taliban denied any involvement in. Many are blaming the government for increased insecurity, saying they have failed to provide a safe environment.

“This is a threat against all of us - it could have hit anyone,” said Ahmad Amiri, owner of Slice Bakery in Share-Naw, where a rocket hit the road right outside, injuring three of his staff -- a waiter, a driver and a delivery person -- and damaging one of the delivery cars, leaving a crater in the road. At least one of the three wounded sustained severe injuries.

“It’s the incompetence of the Interior Ministry and the NDS [National Directorate of Security - Afghanistan’s intelligence agency]. This is downtown Kabul, there are lots of security forces and these attacks still happen. It’s getting murky. Everyone says they didn’t do it,” Amiri told The National, adding that “it looks like this is the start of the new normal.”

A short distance from Slice Bakery, Sana Medical Complex’s paediatric ward was hit by yet another rocket, destroying one of the treatment rooms but causing no casualties.

“It was a miracle that no one was hurt,” said Nilab Sadat, the private clinic’s owner and CEO, still shaken by the morning attacks.

“A newborn baby boy was in the room across from where the rocket hit. He’s born into chaos. Life has no value here. This is one of the worst times. Civilians are being targeted. There is not a single peaceful day in Kabul,” she said.

The explosions came ahead of a meeting between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and negotiators from the Taliban and the Afghan government in Qatar’s capital Doha.

There is an ongoing wave of violence that has wrought carnage across Afghanistan in recent months.

The Taliban have pledged not to attack urban areas under the terms of a US withdrawal deal, but the Kabul government has blamed the insurgents or their proxies for other recent attacks in Kabul.

Peace negotiations that were supposed to lead to a power-sharing deal and that were initially launched in September have faced a stalemate, with the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), saying that Taliban violence has increased by 50 per cent in the past three months.

“They sit at the table together, but they can’t stop the violence. Why would our government sit with them? The Taliban brought pre-conditions to the talks when it came to the prisoner release, but why did the government not demand a ceasefire?” Mr Sadat asked, adding that many Afghans have invested in their country, continuously trying to create a better environment.

At least 30 patients were admitted to Emergency Hospital in Share-Naw, just metres away from where some of the rockets landed. “It was scary,” said Marco Puntin, the hospital’s Programme Coordinator.

Hours later, the daily bustle has returned to this morning’s targeted areas, with a handful of shops remaining closed, and a sombre atmosphere in the streets.

“I don’t feel comfortable here anymore,” Mr Sadat told The National, her hospital up and running again while the rubble is being cleared up.

Updated: November 21, 2020 06:45 PM

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