Afghanistan Taliban attack Hamid Karzai's 'peace jirga'
President Hamid Karzai's speech was interrupted by gunfire and nearby rocket explosions. He called for the Afghanistan Taliban to disassociate themselves with Al Qaeda and join the government.
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The attacks were another blow to the jirga, which was billed as an attempt to gain national consensus on how to approach peace talks with insurgents, but had already met skepticism and even boycotts from some Afghan leaders.
It was the third such conference since 2001, when the US launched Operation Enduring Freedom and ousted the Taliban. The Taliban had publicly rejected this latest jirga and last month announced it would launch a new offensive against foreign and Afghan troops, diplomats, and government workers.
The Washington Post reports that the first rocket attack struck near the jirga site as Afghan President Hamid Karzai gave his opening address. A gunfight then ensued as police attacked suspected suicide bombers the government said were attempting to detonate explosives near the tent where the assembly was held, and a second rocket was later launched.
There were no reported casualties among the approximately 1,600 delegates who attended the jirga, but police said they had shot and killed two suspected suicide bombers and taken a third into custody. At least two of the suspected bombers were wearing burqas to conceal their explosives, according to government officials.
The Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Agence France-Presse reports that a Taliban spokesman claimed the group had sent four suicide bombers to target the assembly, and said they were shooting rockets into the tent from the roof of a nearby building. As The New York Times reports, the attacks marked a major failure of the security effort for the meeting. Police had blocked off access to the assembly area for a week before the meeting. According to the Times, the Taliban established a safe house inside the perimeter from which they launched their attacks.
Even as Taliban attacked the assembly, Mr. Karzai called on the insurgents to give up their arms:
In Mr. Karzai’s speech to the jirga, he called the Taliban “brothers” and “dear Talibs,” and he described their flight to Pakistan and their fighting as a reaction to injustices done by local Afghans who had “disturbed them “ and by foreign troops.