Afghanistan The thump of rockets and the rattle of gunfire punctuated President Hamid Karzai’s speech opening a national conference Wednesday where delegates were divided over whether to negotiate peace with Taliban leaders to end nearly nine years of war.
Taliban fighters wearing suicide vests fired at the tent holding some 1,500 dignitaries, lawmakers and civil society activists, triggering a battle with security forces that killed at least two militants. Three civilians, but no delegates, were wounded.
One rocket landed with a thud about 100 yards from the tent and kicked up smoke. Karzai brushed off the interruption, about 10 minutes into his address, and urged fighters from the Taliban and another major insurgent group, Hizb-i-Islami, to lay down their arms.
“My dear Taliban, you are welcome in your own soil. Do not hurt this country, and don’t destroy or kill yourselves,” Karzai said, emphasizing that more fighting would only prevent the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan.
“Make peace with me and there will be no need for foreigners here,” Karzai said in the nationally televised speech.