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Five rockets fired at US air base in Afghanistan

GHAZNI: People carry the body of a victim following a blast, at a provincial hospital in Ghazni. At least 15 children were killed when a motorbike laden with explosives blew up near a religious gathering in eastern Afghanistan Friday, officials said. – AFP

KABUL: A major US air base north of Kabul was targeted in a rocket attack yesterday but there were no casualties or damage to the airfield, NATO and Afghan officials said. Five rockets were fired at Bagram Airfield in Parwan province at 6 am, said Waheeda Shahkar, spokeswoman for the provincial governor. She said 12 rockets were mounted on a vehicle and five of them were fired at the base, while police defused the other seven.

A NATO official also confirmed the rocket attack. “Rockets were fired towards Bagram Airfield this morning. Initial reporting is there were no casualties and the airfield was not damaged,” the official said. No group has immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, and the Taleban denied any involvement. The jihadist Islamic State group previously claimed responsibility for a similar rocket attack on the base in April. In recent months, IS has claimed several assaults in Kabul, including two rocket attacks that struck several residential areas in the capital, causing fatalities.

15 children killed
At least 15 children were killed when a motorbike laden with explosives blew up near a religious gathering in eastern Afghanistan on Friday, officials said. The children had gathered at a home in Ghazni province to recite Quran verses, a regular activity on the Islamic holy day of Friday, when the blast happened. Violence has surged in Afghanistan in recent months despite the government and the Taleban launching peace talks to end the country’s grinding war.

“Unfortunately, as a result of this incident 15 people, all children, were martyred,” said Wahedullah Jumazada, spokesman for the province’s governor. Ahmad Khan Seerat, spokesman for the provincial police force, confirmed the blast, which he said was a Taleban attack. He added that 20 others were wounded, including children. Interior ministry spokesman Tariq Arian earlier said the group had gathered to recite the Koran in remote Gilan district, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) from Ghazni city, the provincial capital. Taleban and government forces have regularly clashed in the province, where the insurgents control several areas.

Thirty security personnel were killed last month when a suicide car bomber struck an army base near Ghazni city. The government’s talks with the Taleban-which opened in September in the Qatari capital of Doha-are currently on a break until early January. The country has witnessed an increase in fighting, with the Taliban accused of trying to get an upper hand in the talks through violence.

Afghan forces have also battled a number of attacks blamed on the Islamic State group in recent months. Between January and September this year, more than 2,100 civilians were killed and more than 3,800 wounded in the violence, according to the UN mission in Afghanistan.

Outgoing US President Donald Trump has pushed to end America’s longest war, with Washington signing a deal with the Taleban early this year committing to pulling all of its troops from the country by May 2021. The Taleban have primarily targeted government forces in rural areas since signing the deal, in which they pledged to launch negotiations with the Afghan administration.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has called for the next round of peace negotiations to be held in Kabul, saying it was inappropriate to meet in Doha’s “luxurious hotels”. Taleban negotiators have flown to Pakistan, where they met Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday. Khan called on both sides to reduce violence and agree to a ceasefire. -AFP

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