A barrage of rockets has hit residential areas of Kabul, killing at least eight people and wounding more than 30, Afghan officials say.

More than a dozen rockets were fired from a pickup truck inside the city, the interior ministry said. Several buildings and vehicles were damaged.

The Taliban denied being behind it.

The attack happened hours before a meeting between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Taliban negotiators in an effort to resume peace talks.

Earlier this week, the outgoing Trump administration announced plans to withdraw 2,000 troops from Afghanistan by mid-January. The decision was criticised amid concerns the sharp, fast reduction of troops would weaken the Afghan government’s ability to deal with a resurgent Taliban and other militants.

Many analysts fear the Afghan army is not strong enough to fight on its own if violence continues after foreign troops have left.

The rockets hit areas of central and north Kabul – including near the heavily fortified area that houses embassies and international companies – just before 09:00 (04:30 GMT) on Saturday. The Iranian embassy in Kabul said its compound was hit by rocket fragments but that no-one had been wounded.

Video posted on social media showed schoolgirls running in panic as explosions rang out behind them. An eyewitness, Abdul Qadir, said: “I was having breakfast when the rockets landed, one of the rockets hit a vehicle belonging to a bakery.”

In a statement, the Taliban denied involvement, saying they “do not blindly fire on public places”. A regional Islamic State group also operates in the country and has been behind recent attacks in Kabul, including two assaults on educations institutions that killed nearly 50 people in recent weeks.

The US started withdrawing troops from Afghanistan as part of an agreement signed by the US and the Taliban in February this year. But violence in the country has increased recently as the group stepped up its offensives amid stalled negotiations with the Afghan government.

Mr Pompeo is to meet representatives from the Taliban and the Afghan government in the Qatari capital Doha later. There are suggestions the US and the Taliban are finally close to signing off on the preliminary issues they have been discussing so far.

Source: BBC