KABUL: At least three rockets landed near the Afghan presidential palace on Tuesday as President Ashraf Ghani and a group of other leaders marked the start of Eidul Azha with prayers in the garden.
Although there was no immediate claim of responsibility, it was the first rocket attack on Kabul since the Taliban launched a series of offensives to coincide with the final drawdown of foreign troops from the war-wracked country.
The early morning holiday calm was shattered by the sound of incoming rockets heard across the heavily fortified Green Zone that houses the presidential palace and several embassies, including the US mission.
In a video posted on the official palace Facebook page, dozens of men can be seen continuing with their prayers even as the rockets are heard overhead and exploding nearby.
President Ghani, dressed in traditional Afghan clothing and a turban, stands at the front and appears to not even flinch as the crowd bows together.
“The Taliban have proved that they have no will and intention for peace,” he said in a speech afterwards.
Interior ministry spokesman Mirwais Stanikzai said three rockets appeared to have been fired from a pickup truck. One did not detonate, he said.
“Based on our initial information, we have no casualties,” he added.
The palace was attacked last year as hundreds of people gathered to watch Ghani’s inauguration ceremony, prompting some to flee.
The militant Islamic State group (IS) claimed responsibility for that attack, with no reports of casualties.
Tuesday’s attack coincides with a sweeping Taliban offensive across the country as foreign forces wind up a troop withdrawal scheduled to be complete by August 31.
Last week, the Taliban called Turkey’s offer “reprehensible”.
Fighting, meanwhile, continued in Afghanistan, with both the Taliban and government claiming gains in various parts of the country.
Over the weekend, the Taliban’s supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada said he “strenuously favours” a political settlement — even as the hardline militant group continues its offensives.
The Taliban has been capturing districts, seizing border crossings and encircling provincial capitals as foreign forces prepare to fully exit by late August.
In Washington, the State Department said that some 700 interpreters and their immediate family members who are fleeing Afghanistan will be relocated to an army base in the state of Virginia.