Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

FOCUS

Bosnia: Hopes of change among disempowered citizens

Read more

REVISITED

In Prijedor, survivors fight to keep memory alive

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

¡Gracias, Gabo!

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

The Socialist rebellion grows

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Algerian election: Bouteflika votes in wheelchair

Read more

REPORTERS

Indian election: Votes for sale

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Can Weibo win over US investors?

Read more

DEBATE

Algeria: What's the Choice? Incumbent Bouteflika Votes in Wheelchair (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Algeria: What's the Choice? Incumbent Bouteflika Votes in Wheelchair

Read more

  • Abel Ferrara’s hotly awaited DSK film to premiere on web

    Read more

  • Police seek arrest warrant for South Korea ferry captain

    Read more

  • Top Hollande adviser resigns over conflict of interest accusation

    Read more

  • In Prijedor, survivors fight to keep memory alive

    Read more

  • Indian election: Votes for sale

    Read more

  • Video: Tensions remain high in Mariupol despite Geneva deal

    Read more

  • Astronomers discover Earth-like planet that could support life

    Read more

  • West African Ebola outbreak caused by new strain of virus

    Read more

  • Nobel-winning Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez dies at 87

    Read more

  • Deadly avalanche strikes Everest in worst-ever disaster

    Read more

  • With a strong French presence, veterans and fresh faces, Cannes aims to please

    Read more

  • Low turnout reported in Algeria as Bouteflika seeks fourth term

    Read more

  • Russia and West agree on steps to ease Ukraine crisis

    Read more

  • Mob launches deadly attack on UN shelter for S. Sudan civilians

    Read more

  • Eurostar train mishap causes 'severe' delays

    Read more

  • Chelsea Clinton announces she's pregnant

    Read more

  • French troops free five aid workers kidnapped in Mali by Islamists

    Read more

  • In pictures: Iranian woman pardons son’s killer at the gallows

    Read more

  • After cup defeat, Spanish pundits read last rites for Barcelona

    Read more

  • India heads to polls in single largest day of voting

    Read more

  • Ukraine talks open in Geneva as Putin talks tough on TV

    Read more

  • Pro-Russian separatists killed in attack on Black Sea base

    Read more

  • Man executed in Texas for 2002 triple murder

    Read more

  • Scandal-hit French doctor Jacques Servier dies at 92

    Read more

  • Belgian head of wildlife reserve shot in DR Congo

    Read more

Asia-pacific

Rocket attacks, gunfire mar opening of Kabul peace talks

©

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-06-02

Explosions and gunfire rocked Kabul on Wednesday as President Hamid Karzai launched an ambitious peace plan at a traditional gathering of tribal leaders in the hope of persuading Taliban fighters to lay down their weapons.

AFP - A Taliban suicide squad armed with rockets on Wednesday targeted a landmark Afghan peace conference hosted by President Hamid Karzai in a bid to seek a consensus on how to end nearly nine years of war.

“This is the beginning of what we can call a political reconciliation process.”

At least five explosions, believed to be caused by rockets, and gunfire erupted near the giant air-conditioned tent where 1,600 delegates from across the country and Western diplomats attended the opening of the "peace jirga".

One of the jirga organisers said suicide bombers dressed in women's burqas targeted the event, which was being protected by 12,000 security personnel, but that the attack was unsuccessful.

"Three suicide bombers wearing burqas entered a house which was under construction. They fired one RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) towards the tent," Ghulam Farooq Wardak told delegates.

"Thank God, two of them were killed, paying for their crimes. The third has been captured," he said.

The Taliban claimed it had dispatched four suicide bombers armed with guns and rockets who were threatening the jirga from a nearby rooftop.

Two blasts were heard as Karzai delivered his opening address in which he condemned the Taliban for bringing suffering and oppression, while a third took place later about 200 metres (yards) away from the venue, AFP reporters said.

Karzai left the jirga on schedule after his address, driven away in his customary armoured convoy.

Intensifying gunfire rattled the vicinity of the tent in the southeastern Kabul suburbs, where the interior ministry said that Afghan police had surrounded a "terror" cell holed up in a house nearby.

"There is terrorist activity going on in a house in Afshar. The house has been surrounded by police," said interior ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary.

Sayed Kabiri, chief doctor at a Kabul hospital, said two people had been admitted with injuries caused by the rocket attacks.

The Taliban's nine-year insurgency against Karzai's government and 130,000 US-led foreign troops is now at its deadliest and the group last month vowed to unleash a new campaign of attacks on diplomats, lawmakers and foreign forces.

The militant group -- which is opposed to peace talks until the US-led troops leave Afghanistan -- had dismissed the conference as a propaganda stunt.

"We have four suicide attackers placed on the top of a tall building near the jirga tent. They are threatening the jirga tent," Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.

"They are using rockets, they have small arms and have strapped explosives to their bodies," he said.

Karzai had appealed to the jirga delegates to advise him on how to bring the poverty-stricken country, blighted by three decades of war, out of the latest conflict and encourage the Taliban to disarm.

"We need a national consultation, a peace consultation all over Afghanistan," Karzai said.

"The Afghan nation is looking at you. They await your decisions, your advice so that you can show the Afghan nation the way to reach peace, to rescue Afghanistan from this suffering and pain."

The meeting is the third such conference uniting Afghanistan's complex mix of ethnic, tribal, religious, geographical and gender interests since the Taliban were toppled in 2001.

Hundreds of bearded men in tribal dress and turbans sat in rows and the estimated 300 women delegates were mostly seated in a separate section.

Critics have warned that the outcome is likely to prove limited and ordinary Afghans have been divided about the possible results.

Karzai's Western allies, led by the United States, have expressed support for the jirga as a milestone in Afghanistan's political maturity.

Western public appetite is waning for a war that has killed almost 1,800 foreign troops and shows no sign of abating.

The number of US and NATO troops will peak at 150,000 by August as part of a strategy designed to reverse Taliban momentum and boost government authority in southern Kandahar and Helmand provinces.

US President Barack Obama has said he wants to start drawing down troops from mid-2011.

After the election of a chairman and two deputies, delegates will be divided into 28 groups, each with a spokesman to present their ideas to the general forum.

The jirga is expected to end on Friday with a declaration on what steps should be taken to end the insurgency, what groups should be included in the process and how they should be approached.

 

Date created : 2010-06-02

  • US - AFGHANISTAN

    Karzai and Obama meet to heal strained relations

    Read more

  • AFGHANISTAN

    'The US can’t get rid of Karzai – for now'

    Read more

Comments

COMMENT(S)