All attackers killed near Presidential Place
The assailants were travelling in two Land Cruiser jeeps, Kabul's deputy police chief told reporters at the scene. Clad in ISAF uniforms and having fake cards, the assailants in one vehicle managed to cross a NATO-led security checkpoint.
When intercepted at the eastern gate to the palace, the militants clashed with security guards, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Daud Amin said. The attackers were killed by security officials and their vehicle blown up.
Shortly afterwards, he said, NATO-led forces stopped another suspected jeep that was detonated, killing all occupants. However, the police officer did not give a specific number of the attackers.
More than a dozen explosions happened in front of the Presidential Palace in the high-security Shashdarak neighbourhood at 6:30am. Intense gunfire lasting about 40 minutes rattled the area, which security forces cordoned off.
The two-hour clashes in the heart of the capital city came to an end at 8:30am and the area had been brought under control, the police officer said, without commenting on civilian casualties.
Details of the brazen attack could not be gathered because journalists were not allowed to enter the locality. After the assault, ambulances and firefighting vehicles were seen in Shashdarak.
The Taliban, meanwhile, claimed responsibility for what they called a suicide attack. A spokesman for the group said a large group of assailants, equipped with weapons and bombs, had stormed the Presidential Palace and nearby offices.
Zabihullah Mujahid said in a text message: "Today at 6.30am, a number of suicide bombers attacked the palace, defence ministry and the Ariana Hotel." The hotel is known to house the CIA headquarters in Afghanistan.
Columns of smoke billowed from the eastern gate of the Presidential Palace and the luxury hotel after the blasts and fire exchanges, one witness claimed.
The International Security Assistance Force headquarters, the Ministry of Defence and the CIA's Afghan station are also located in the Shashdarak. Reporters gathering for a press event with President Karzai heard the explosions.
A shopkeeper in the area, Hashmatullah, told Pajhwok Afghan News: "Moments after I opened my shop, the neighbourhood was jolted by a series of explosions." Sporadic gunshots also rang out for a while before he fled to Pul-i-Mahmood Khan area.
Reporters had been gathering at the palace at the time of the attack that came hours before President Karzai was to address a joint press conference with US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins.
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