Karzai offers them an olive branch, they return with gunfire and suicide attacks. “Militants attack as Afghan peace conference starts,” by Kathy Gannon and Rahim Faiez for Associated Press, June 2 (thanks to Mr. Pakol):
KABUL, Afghanistan – Taliban suicide attackers struck at the national peace conference as it opened Wednesday in the Afghan capital, waging gunbattles near the venue. At least two attackers were killed but no delegates were hurt, officials said.
The attack, including rocket fire, started minutes after President Hamid Karzai began his opening address to some 1,600 dignitaries gathered for the conference, in which he appealed for rank-and-file Taliban members to stop fighting for the sake of the country.
The Taliban, which had earlier threatened to kill anyone who took part, claimed responsibility for the attack in a phone call to The Associated Press, saying they intended to sabotage the three-day conference.
The conference, known as a peace jirga, continued despite the attack….
Karzai’s remarks were interesting:
“There are thousands of Taliban and Hizb-i-Islami, they are not the enemies of this soil,” Karzai said.
He said continuing fighting would only prevent the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan.
“Make peace with me and there will be no need for foreigners here. As long as you are not talking to us, not making peace with us, we will not let the foreigners leave,” Karzai said.
About 10 minutes into his speech, Karzai was briefly interrupted by an explosion outside, which police said was a rocket. Karzai heard the thud, but dismissed it, telling delegates, “Don’t worry. We’ve heard this kind of thing before.”
Soon afterward, an AP reporter nearby heard a loud explosion and saw smoke rising from a second apparent rocket attack that struck about 100 meters (yards) from the venue, a huge tent pitched on a university compound.
Bursts of gunfire could be heard to the south of the venue, and security forces rushed to the area. Helicopters flew overhead….