Militant mortar fire kills eight Afghan civilians, official says

Afghans check a car destroyed by an attached bomb in Kabul
Wreckage of a car that was bombed in Kabul, Afghanistan, is loaded onto a truck. Three men, including a former Afghan news anchor, were killed in the blast.
(Mariam Zuhaib / Associated Press)

At least eight Afghan civilians — five children and three women — were killed Sunday when militants fired mortars into eastern Ghazni province’s capital city, a provincial official said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. But Wahidullah Jumazada, a spokesman for the provincial governor, blamed insurgents whom he said often fire mortars or rockets toward military bases in the area that miss their intended targets.

At least four more children and three men were also wounded by the firing, he said.

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Violence has soared in Afghanistan in recent months, even as the Taliban and government negotiators hold peace talks in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar to find an end to decades of relentless war in Afghanistan. The two sides have made little progress.

Washington’s peace envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, has been pressing for an agreement on a reduction of violence or a cease-fire, which the Taliban have refused, saying a permanent truce would be part of the negotiations.

The talks are part of a negotiated agreement between the United States and the Taliban to allow U.S. and NATO troops to withdraw from Afghanistan, ending 19 years of military engagement.

Earlier this month, Islamic State militants stormed Kabul University as it hosted a book fair attended by the Iranian ambassador, sparking an hours-long gun battle and leaving at least 22 dead and 22 wounded at the war-torn country’s largest school.

The Islamic State group is not part of peace talks underway in Qatar. Under an agreement signed with the U.S., the Taliban have committed to fighting militancy, specifically the Islamic State group.

On Saturday, a bomb attached to the vehicle of a former news anchor on Afghanistan’s TOLO TV exploded, killing the journalist and two other civilians, Kabul police said.

The death of Yama Siawash is being investigated, said police spokesman Ferdaws Faramarz. No one immediately claimed responsibility.

Siawash had recently begun working with Afghanistan’s Central Bank and was in a bank vehicle along with another senior employee, Ahmadullah Anas, and the driver, Mohammad Amin. All died in the explosion, said Faramarz.

According to initial reports, Siawash was near his home when the bomb attached to his car exploded. An eyewitness, Mohammad Rafi, said Siawash’s father and brother were the first to reach the vehicle, which was engulfed in flames.

Separately on Saturday, a suicide attack in the southern Zabul province killed two civilians, said police spokesman Hikmatullah Kochai. Acting on intelligence reports, Kochai said police intercepted a vehicle, which was detonated by the bombers within. More than one assailant was inside the vehicle, he said. Seven civilians were wounded in the attack.

In southern Kandahar, a vehicle carrying several farmers hit a roadside mine killing five and wounding at least two others, said Bahir Ahmadi, spokesman for the Kandahar provincial governor.