NPR logo In Afghanistan, Jirga Interrupted By Explosions, Gunfire, Suicide Attack

In Afghanistan, Jirga Interrupted By Explosions, Gunfire, Suicide Attack

Jirga. i

Delegates look on as Afghan President Hamid Karzai delivers a speech to the National Consultive Peace Jirga. Shah Marai / AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Shah Marai / AFP/Getty Images
Jirga.

Delegates look on as Afghan President Hamid Karzai delivers a speech to the National Consultive Peace Jirga.

Shah Marai / AFP/Getty Images

A jirga, which The New York Times calls "national consultative peace assembly," was interrupted by rockets and three attempted suicide bombings earlier today.

There are conflicting accounts of what happened over the course of a day that was punctuated by rockets and gunfire.

Officials claim that three suicide bombers, dressed in burqas, tried to detonate explosive devices. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, who was at the jirga, says that "we are hearing that, of the three bombers, one was able to detonate, but he did not hurt anybody except himself; one was arrested; and one was killed by security forces." She added that there is another report that the bomber who was arrested has been killed.

According to the Taliban, the bombers were wearing army uniforms, not burqas.

Ten minutes into Hamid Karzai's introductory remarks, there was a rocket attack. Karzai urged the jirga delegates to remain seated and calm, then he continued with his speech.

Karzai called the gathering seven months ago. According to Nelson, for three days, 1,600 delegates, representing all of the 365 districts in Afghanistan, will gather in a large tent outside the Kabul Polytechnic University.

Basically, you're talking about tribal elders, local officials, people of some importance and respect in their communities, who have come together to try and come up with what is being described as a mechanism to talk to insurgents, to get them to lay down their weapons, and reintegrate into Afghan society.

Following the explosion, and through the subsequent gunfire, Karzai became increasingly angry, Nelson reports.

He expressed frustration with what he said was a situation where Afghans are sort of stuck in the middle of westerners who are here with their military forces, trying to clear this place of insurgents and al-Qaida and the like, and the insurgents who want their country cleared of foreign forces.

The Taliban has threatened to kill anyone who attends the jirga, insisting the traditional assembly is being used to advance dubious political objectives.

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