Rocket fired amid fighting between Taleban insurgents and Afghan soldiers

December 31, 2014 11:50 pm

A rocket fired amid fighting between Taleban insurgents and Afghan
soldiers killed at least 26 people at a nearby wedding party Thursday,
authorities said, a grim end to a year that saw the end of the 13-year
US-led combat mission there.
The rocket struck a house in
southern Helman province’s Sangin District, where Afghan security forces
have been battling insurgents in the six months since US forces
withdrew from the area.
Police spokesman Fareed Ahmad Obaid said
the rocket wounded at least 45 people. Bashir Ahmad Shakir, a provincial
council member, said the death toll could be up to 30 killed with as
many as 60 wounded.

An Afghan wounded child is helped by people after the explosion in Helmand province, south of Kabul. Photo / AP
 
Abdul Haleem, a cousin of the bride who was
hosting her wedding, said that nine of his children were missing after
the rocket struck his house as guests waited outside for the bride to
arrive.
“Nine children of mine are missing; I just collected body
parts,” he said. “I don’t know whether it’s my children or someone
else.”

Wednesday marked the final day of the US and NATO’s combat
mission, which began with the invasion that overthrew the Taleban after
the Sept. 11 attacks. Al-Qaida then enjoyed safe haven in Afghanistan,
where the Taleban ruled according to its own violent interpretation of
Islamic law.
Afghanistan’s own 350,000-member-strong forces
officially take responsibility for security starting Thursday. The
insurgency has been testing the resolve of the army and police, who
officials say are holding their ground even as the number of attacks
increases and casualties soar.
This year was the deadliest of the
war for government forces and civilians, with around 5,000 Afghan
soldiers and police killed, officials have said. An estimated 10,000
civilians have been killed or wounded, the highest annual toll since the
UN started keeping figures in 2008.
In much of the south and
east, government forces are facing off against the Taleban without the
assistance of coalition air support or medical evacuations. They have
taken heavy casualties but have thus far prevented the Taleban from
seizing large swaths of territory. Interior Ministry spokesman Seddiq
Seddiqi said the insurgents had “failed to capture even one district.”
Afghan
forces may also receive a boost from warming ties with neighboring
Pakistan. After the school massacre in the Pakistani town of Peshawar
earlier this month — in which more than 140 people were killed, mainly
children — the two US allies vowed to work together to combat
insurgents on both sides of the porous border.
President Ashraf
Ghani, who took office in September, has said he wants to bring peace to
his country after more than 30 years of continuous war. He has
bolstered ties with China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia as part of an
effort to isolate the Taleban and bring them to the negotiating table.
First
Vice President Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum said Wednesday that he had
reached an agreement with some 300 Taleban fighters in the northern
Jawzjan province to lay down their arms.
Fighting continued
elsewhere in the country. In the eastern Nangahar province, gunmen shot
dead a police officer and two civilians after security forces stopped
their car and motorcycle, both of which carried explosives. Provincial
police chief Gen. Fazel Ahmad Sherzad said police suspected that they
were on their way to attack government offices.
In central
Uruzgan province, a police officer killed three of his fellow officers
and wounded five while they ate dinner Tuesday, spokesman Dost Mohammad
Nayab said. The gunman fled after the shooting and authorities had no
motive for the attack.

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