Kabul attack: Several killed as rockets hit residential areas

Several buildings were damaged by the rockets

A rocket attack on the Afghan capital Kabul has killed at least eight people and wounded 30 others, officials say, just before scheduled US-Taliban talks.

About 20 mortars were fired from two cars into residential areas on Saturday morning, the interior ministry said.

Several buildings and vehicles were damaged. The Taliban denied being behind the attack.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is due to meet Taliban negotiators in Doha in an effort to resume peace talks.

Earlier this week, the outgoing Trump administration announced plans to withdraw 2,000 troops from Afghanistan by mid-January. The decision was criticised amid concerns the sharp, fast reduction of troops would weaken the Afghan government’s ability to deal with a resurgent Taliban and other militants.

Many analysts fear the Afghan army is not strong enough to fight on its own if violence continues after foreign troops have left.

The rockets hit areas of central and north Kabul – including near the heavily fortified area that houses embassies and international companies – just before 09:00 (04:30 GMT). The Iranian embassy in Kabul said its compound was hit by rocket fragments but that no-one had been wounded.

In a statement, the Taliban denied involvement, saying they “do not blindly fire on public places”. A regional Islamic State group also operates in the country and has been behind recent attacks in Kabul, including two assaults on educations institutions that killed nearly 50 people in recent weeks.

The attack happened at around 09:00 (04:30 GMT) on Saturday
At least 30 people have been wounded

The US started withdrawing troops from Afghanistan as part of an agreement signed by the US and the Taliban in February this year. But violence in the country has increased recently as the group stepped up its offensives amid stalled negotiations with the Afghan government.

Mr Pompeo is to meet representatives from the Taliban and the Afghan government in the Qatari capital Doha later. There are suggestions the US and the Taliban are finally close to signing off on the preliminary issues they have been discussing so far.