Rockets hit near main diplomatic district in Kabul: Official

Multiple rockets struck Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul on Tuesday, shaking the main diplomatic district and sending foreign embassies into lockdown, officials and sources said.

The Interior Ministry’s spokesman, Tariq Arian, said the rockets were fired from two vehicles in the northern and eastern part of the Afghan capital.

It was not immediately clear if there were casualties or who was behind the attack on Afghanistan’s independence day at a time when the United States is withdrawing troops and encouraging peace talks to end almost 19 years of war.

Sources told the Reuters news agency the diplomatic area was quickly placed under lockdown after the blasts, as workers in embassies took cover in safe rooms.

Smoke billowed, alarms shrilled and shrapnel flew, said Reuters witnesses who heard at least four rockets landing near the Green Zone area, home to many foreign embassies and NATO headquarters.

“The warning alarm sounded two to three seconds before impact and then there was the sound of the first rocket, then, soon afterwards, another much louder one with a huge boom and shrapnel and bits of concrete fell,” added one of them.

A diplomatic source told Reuters one rocket had landed near a mosque just outside the tightly-guarded diplomatic enclave.

“All diplomatic officials in embassies in the green zone have been moved to safe rooms in the diplomatic district until clearance orders,” a senior Western security official added.

Teams were working to establish exactly where the rockets hit and if there were any casualties, an Afghan security official said.

The attack came a day after the government said it would not release the last 320 Taliban prisoners it holds until the armed group frees 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 US.

Meanwhile, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said he was not aware of the attack in Kabul.

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

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