Dozens dead, injured in coordinated rebel attacks
KABUL (PAN): Several Western diplomatic missions and other high-security offices in Kabul and three other provinces came under well-coordinated rebel attacks on Sunday, officials and witnesses said.
Seven attackers were killed, while 14 policemen and nine civilians were wounded in the near-simultaneous strikes in Kabul, Logar, Nangarhar and Paktia, an interior ministry spokesman told Pajhwok Afghan News.
Ghulam Siddiue Sadiq said security personnel and civilians had suffered no fatalities, contradicting statements from other officials in Kabul and Nangarhar. Two militants were caught alive in the capital.
Authorities in Nangarhar, where the Jalalabad airfield and the US provincial recontruction team (PRT) compound were assaulted, said at least three ordinary people were among the dead.
While asserting responsibility for the daring assaults, the Taliban said German and British embassies, as well as the ISAF headquarters, were the prime targets in the capital.
A large number of foreign troops, Afghan soldiers and policemen were killed and wounded in the attacks that were planned over the past few months, said militant spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, who added the assaults marked the Taliban’s spring offensive.
One police officer, who did not want to be named, said three intelligence operatives, one policeman and a taxi driver had died in the Kabul fighting.
At least four suicide attackers were shot dead in the Paktiakot area of the 9th police district, a police statement said. A series of blasts were heard across the capital, where gunshots rang out for hours.
A rocket-propelled grenade landed outside the gate of a compound used by UK envoys, two struck the guard tower of the British embassy and one slammed into the Canadian embassy.
Three rockets hit a supermarket frequented by foreigners and one fell close to the World Bank country office, sources revealed.
Bursts of gunfire and several blasts rocked the capital at about 1.45pm, soon after multiple bombers stormed a luxury hotel in the Wazir Akbar Khan diplomatic enclave.
The gunfire erupted near the Ghazanfar Bank and a heavy explosion rocked the area as the attackers stormed the Kabul Star Hotel in front of the Iranian embassy, said Mohammadullah, giving a witness account.
Smoke billowed from a couple of buildings in the locality, where sirens wailed for quite some time. British and German embassies, as well as an American military base and the Presidential Palace, are located in the area.
The Quick Reaction Force (QRF) partially cleared the building from where the militants fired rockets at the embassies, as well as the residence of Interior Minister Bismillah Mohammadi.
A US embassy spokesperson, Gavin Sundwal, said the embassy was currently in lockdown, following its standard operating procedures after hearing explosions and gunfire in the area.
“All its personnel are accounted for and safe. We have no reports of injuries to any compound personnel,” the spokesperson added.
Elsewhere, some assailants took up positions in an under-construction building in Darul Aman area, firing a volley of rockets and gunshots at the parliament building.
“I was on my way to the office when gunfire rocked the locality,” said Hamidullah, a driver with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
On the eastern outskirts of the capital, several militants attacked the Kabul Military Training Centre and a NATO military base in the Pul-i-Charkhi area.
In Nangarhar, seven suicide attackers and three civilians were killed and four other assailants wounded. Four bombers detonated their explosives-laden vehicles close to the PRT office.
Another two bombers were shot dead by police, the governor's spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzai said. A seventh rebel later succumbed to his injuries.
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said three rockets were fired into the airport, causing no casualties. The force said one of the attackers was killed near the PRT office.
But Niamatullah Noorzai, the administrative headof the Behsud district where the airfield and the PRT compound are situated, said three attackers and as many civilians were killed and another two people injured.
In southeastern Paktia province, three assailants were killed and 23 people, including civilians, injured when gunmen opened fire from a multi-storey building rooftop at the police headquarters.
The governor's spokesman, Roohullah Samoon, said the gunmen sneaked into the six-storey building near the university at about 1:30pm and started firing at the police headquarters.
The clash lasted four hours and foreign troops provided air support to Afghan security personnel. The attackers’ bodies were lying at the scene, he added.
A doctor on duty at the Paktia Civil Hospital said they had received 23 injured people, including three policemen, two women, five children and students.
Elsewhere in central Afghanistan, four attackers were killed and eight security men injured after key government offices and a NATO military base came under attack in Logar.
The governor's house, the police headquarters, an ISAF base and the National Directorate of Security (NDS) department were attacked, police chief Brig. Gen. Ghulam Sakhi Rogh Lewanai said.
Four of the militants who stormed the mines and handicrafts department were killed in a four-hour fire exchange with Afghan and international troops.
The wounded included three intelligence operatives, as many Afghan soldiers and two policemen. As the clash escalated, Afghan personnel sought air support from ISAF, the police chief said.
Education department spokesman Shahpur Arab said two officials were wounded when an insurgent-fired rocket hit their compound.
According to Zabihullah Mujahid, dozens of Taliban -- laced with weapons, suicide vests, RPGs, heavy machine guns and hand grenades -- hit their targets.