KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — At least five civilians were wounded when several rockets were fired toward Kabul international airport in the Afghan capital, officials said Wednesday. The attack came as U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg were in town for a visit.
Najib Danish, spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, said one rocket stuck a home near the airport, wounding the five victims. He said one victim was a woman who was “not in a good health condition.”
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the attack on his official Twitter account.
Danish said Afghan security forces surrounded an area where they suspected the rockets might have been fired. “A search operation is underway in the area by police units,” he said.
Tumor Shah Hamedi, director of Kabul airport, said all flights were halted as result of the attack.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said during a joint news conference with Mattis and Stoltenberg at the presidential palace that special forces troops brought the attack under control. Mattis called the attack “a crime” during the news conference, which was broadcast live.
Both Mattis and Stoltenberg have pledged continued support for Afghanistan and vowed to do everything possible so the country “doesn’t again become a safe haven for international terrorists.”
Stoltenberg said NATO is aware of “the cost of staying in Afghanistan, but the cost of leaving would be even higher.” He said “if NATO forces leave too soon, there is a risk that Afghanistan may return to a state of chaos and once again become a safe haven for international terrorism.”
Stoltenberg also said NATO was committed to funding the Afghan security forces until at least 2020, and would continue to provide them almost a $1 billion each year.
Ghani said the Taliban can choose either align with international terrorism or renounce violence and join a peace process with the government.
Mattis said Washington supports a negotiated settlement between the Taliban and Afghanistan. “The sooner the Taliban recognizes they cannot win with bombs, the sooner the killing will end,” he said.