Mortar shells strike Kabul, wound at least 10 civilians as Afghans mark Independence Day

18 Aug 2020

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Afghan photographers take pictures of a damaged car after a rocket attack during Independence Day celebrations at Defense Ministry in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday. — AP
Afghan photographers take pictures of a damaged car after a rocket attack during Independence Day celebrations at Defense Ministry in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday. — AP

Several mortar shells slammed into various part of Kabul on Tuesday morning, wounding at least 10 civilians as Afghans marked their country’s Independence Day amid new uncertainties over the start of talks between the Taliban and the Kabul government.

No militant group claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Interior Ministry’s spokesperson, Tariq Arian, said a total of 14 mortar shells were fired from two vehicles in the northern and eastern part of the Afghan capital. Four children were among the wounded.

“Most of the mortar shells hit residential houses,” Arian said, adding that an investigation was underway.

According to eyewitnesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity fearing reprisals, at least one mortar shell landed in the upscale Wazir Akbar Khan neighbourhood, where diplomats and senior government officials reside.

The attack came a day after the government said it would not release the last 320 Taliban prisoners it holds until the insurgents free more captured Afghan soldiers. The decision went against that of a traditional Afghan council held earlier this month — the Loya Jirga — and is likely to further delay intra-Afghan peace talks sought by the United States.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said he wasn’t aware of the mortar attack in Kabul. The Islamic State group’s affiliate, which operates in Afghanistan, has interrupted national celebrations in the past with rocket fire.

Also on Tuesday morning, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani attended an Independence Day ceremony at the Defense Ministry in Kabul, inspecting an honour guard and laying flowers on the Independence Minaret monument there.