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Asia

Taliban target Afghan peace jirga

Taliban suicide commandos have attacked a huge gathering of Afghan leaders and tribal elders in Kabul. Hundreds of delegates from across the country were at the jirga, when the attack took place but nobody was injured.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai asks attendees of the peace jirga to take their seats after hearing sounds of an explosion

Afghan President Hamid Karzai asks attendees of the peace jirga to take their seats after hearing sounds of an explosion

At least three rockets landed outside the peace jirga shortly after President Hamid Karzai opened the meeting on Wednesday, officials said. One rocket landed about 500 meters from the jirga tent in Kabul. Gunfire was heard but there were no casualties among the delegates. The president continued his speech despite the commotion.

"Don't worry. Sit down calmly, everything is fine. We are used to it. Everybody is used to it," he told delegates. He left the site with a convoy of armored vehicles after finishing his speech.

Some delegates leave the peace jirga tent after hearing sounds of a rocket attack

Some delegates leave the peace jirga tent after hearing sounds of a rocket attack

The dpa news agency quoted the top UN envoy in Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, as saying the attacks were predictable. "What would you expect if you are still in the conflict zone? They are not going to derail the jirga."

Taliban take responsibility

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying they were aimed at stopping the jirga, which they claim is aimed at safeguarding the interests of the US and other NATO members.

According to a presidential spokesman, three Taliban insurgents disguised in women's clothes fired a rocket-propelled grenade and also clashed with troops. Two of the bombers were killed and the third was captured alive.

Farooq Wardak, the chairman of the jirga's commission, said the situation was "100 percent" under the control of the security forces.

The giant tent housing the peace jirga

The giant tent housing the peace jirga

Karzai's peace plan

The jirga or assembly was called by President Hamid Karzai to develop a framework to discuss a peace initiative with the Taliban.

Karzai has called for an amnesty for those Taliban who renounce the insurgency and agree to the Afghan constitution, as well as for their reintegration into society.

He has also proposed that the names of certain insurgency leaders be removed by a UN sanctions blacklist and that they be given asylum by other Islamic countries.

Around 1,600 tribal elders, members of parliament, provincial council representatives and religious leaders are attending the gathering.

They will discuss Karzai's 36-page reconciliation plan in small groups over the next two days.

The assembly is due to end on Friday.

du/dpa/AFP/AP/Reuters

Editor: Anne Thomas

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