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Taliban Rockets Smash into Market Killing 8 People

July 6, 1996

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ Islamic rebels rocketed a crowded market on Saturday, killing five children and three other people days after Afghanistan’s new prime minister called for a truce.

At least 28 others were wounded in the attack, hospital officials said.

``There was blood everywhere. I carried two old men to the hospital,″ store owner Mohammed Sharif said. ``I don’t know whether they were alive or dead.″

The Taliban rebels, an army of religious students turned guerrilla fighters, have revved up their attacks on the battered capital since Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar took office on June 26.

Since then, hospital officials say, more than 100 people have been killed and hundreds more injured. They say the death toll likely is higher since many victims are buried immediately, in line with strict Islamic teachings, and go uncounted by officials.

Hekmatyar appealed Thursday for the Taliban to open negotiations to end Afghanistan’s 4-year-old civil war. He has offered to give the Taliban key ministries in his new Cabinet.

``We want peace with the Taliban,″ he said.

But the Taliban refused, demanding that Hekmatyar and President Burhanuddin Rabbani step down and turn over the government’s weapons to Taliban soldiers, who want to install a strict Islamic government.

More than 70 percent of Kabul has been destroyed since 1992, when loosely allied Islamic rebels turned on each other after ousting the communist government. An estimated 25,000 people have died, most of them civilians.

Hekmatyar and Rabbani were former enemies but reached an agreement in mid-May that joined their forces and gave Hekmatyar the prime minister’s office.

Hekmatyar now hopes to form a coalition government that will include the 10 main Islamic parties, once allied against Afghanistan’s old communists.

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