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Tags: Taliban | bomber | peace | attacks

Taliban Attacks Afghan Peace Confab

Wednesday, 02 June 2010 07:55 AM EDT

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

As Karzai delivered his speech to 1,600 delegates and Western diplomats at the "peace jirga," explosions and gunfire erupted around the huge air-conditioned tent in Kabul where the conference was taking place.

Officials said suicide bombers wearing explosives-packed vests and dressed in women's burqas targeted the event, which was being protected by 12,000 security personnel, but that the attack was unsuccessful.

"The area is under our control now and is cleared," interior ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashery told AFP.

"Two attackers aged between 17 and 20 years had managed to come to the area using burqas and had entered a house under contruction," he said.

"One of them was killed on the frst floor and the second on the third floor," he said. He declined to say whether the pair had been shot dead or which security forces were involved in the operation.

He said a third potential suicide attacker had been taken into custody.

At least five explosions, believed to be caused by rockets, marred the opening of the three-day jirga that Karzai hopes will find a consensus within the disparate country on how to end nearly nine years of war with the Taliban.

The militia -- which is opposed to peace talks until all foreign troops leave Afghanistan -- claimed it had dispatched four suicide bombers armed with guns and rockets who were threatening the jirga from a nearby rooftop.

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

The president 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."

Critics have warned that the outcome of the jirga is likely to prove limited, not least because the Taliban are not officially attending.

It is already the third such conference uniting Afghanistan's complex mix of ethnic, tribal, religious, geographical and gender interests since the US-led invasion brought down the Taliban's 1996-2001 regime.

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.

Delegates elected as chairman the warlord and former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, who delivered a rambling speech in which he conceded that three days might not be long enough to "find a solution for all our problems".

"But it is a good beginning and this trend must continue," he said.

"We must not have pre-conditions for peace. We know what we want but neither us nor the other side must set pre-conditions," he said.

The Taliban had dismissed the conference as a propaganda stunt and a spokesman claimed responsibility for the attacks on the jirga.

"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 told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.

The jirga was being held after Al-Qaeda announced the death of its number three leader and Afghanistan operations chief Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, believed to have been killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan late last month.

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

The number of US and NATO troops, now at 130,000, is set to 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.

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.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

© Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

KABUL — A Taliban suicide squad armed with rockets on Wednesday targeted an Afghan peace conference being hosted by President Hamid Karzai in a bid to seek a consensus on how to end nearly nine years of war.
Wednesday, 02 June 2010 07:55 AM
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