Deadly rocket attack hits Kabul ahead of US-Taliban meeting

KABUL, Afghanistan – A rocket barrage slammed into the heart of Kabul on Saturday morning, killing at least five people and injuring more than a dozen others, as warning sirens sounded in diplomatic quarters in the Afghan capital and residents on their morning commute took cover.

Tariq Arian, a spokesman for the country’s Interior Ministry, said 14 rockets hit the city center, exploding near a university and a shopping district, among others.

Security officials said they found a burning truck with launch tubes in its bed a distance from where the rockets struck, suggesting the vehicle was used to fire the ammunition. ISIS used a similar attack in March when the group launched the presidential inauguration, although responsibility for Saturday’s attack was not immediately clear.

The rare rocket attack on the city came as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was scheduled to meet with the Afghan government and Taliban officials in Doha, Qatar later on Saturday.

The Afghan government and the Taliban are deadlocked on the framework of the ongoing peace negotiations, although they began in September. Taliban and Afghan government negotiators have said in recent days that they are close to a breakthrough.

A Taliban spokesperson denied that the insurgent group was involved in the attack.

The incident comes during a particularly bloody month. At least 163 civilians were killed in November so far across the country, according to data compiled by The New York Times. On November 2, three gunmen stormed Kabul University, killing at least 22 people, many of them students.

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