Militant mortar fire kills 8 Afghan civilians, official says

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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — At least eight Afghan civilians — five children and three women — were killed Sunday when militants fired mortars into eastern Ghazni province's capital city, a provincial official said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. But Wahidullah Jumazada, a spokesman for the provincial governor, blamed insurgents who he said often fire mortars or rockets toward military bases in the area which miss their intended targets.

At least four more children and three men were also wounded by the firing, he said.

Violence has soared in Afghanistan in recent months, even as the Taliban and government negotiators hold peace talks in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar to find an end to decades of relentless war in Afghanistan. The two sides have made little progress.

Washington's peace envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, has been pressing for an agreement on a reduction of violence or a cease-fire, which the Taliban have refused, saying a permanent truce would be part of the negotiations.

The talks are part of a negotiated agreement between the United States and the Taliban to allow U.S. and NATO troops to withdraw from Afghanistan, ending 19 years of military engagement.

Earlier this month, Islamic State militants stormed Kabul University as it hosted a book fair attended by the Iranian ambassador, sparking an hours-long gunbattle and leaving at least 22 dead and 22 wounded at the war-torn country’s largest school.

The Islamic State group is not part of peace talks underway in Qatar. Under an agreement signed with the U.S., the Taliban have committed to fighting militancy, specifically the Islamic State group.