Afghan police boosted security in Kabul Thursday by increasing their personnel on the streets and erecting new checkpoints, a day after simultaneous suicide attacks against three government buildings left at least 26 people dead, dpa reported.
Hundreds of police, army soldiers and intelligence agents were seen Thursday on the city's squares and boulevards.
The new measures were taken a day after Afghan Interior Minister Hanif Atmar admitted at a press conference that the "enemy still has the ability to transport weapons and explosives into Kabul city."
Atmar said the government would take "tougher security measures" but did not give more details, other than warning that they would cause more disruptions to daily life.
Wednesday's attacks were sanctioned directly by Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and were conducted by eight suicide bombers equipped with assault rifles, the Taliban said in a statement posted on its website.
It said the attack was carried out to avenge the execution of some of the group's members in government prisons last year. Another eight attackers returned to their bases after the attacks, the statement said.
The deadliest attack was carried out by five assailants who stormed the Justice Ministry, opening fire on workers "indiscriminately" and tossing hand grenades. All five were killed in a three-hour gunbattle with security forces.
The sixth bomber was killed before he could attack the Education Ministry while the last two members of the group attacked the prisons directorate.
The attacks killed at least 26 people - mostly civilians, but including police and intelligence forces.
Amerullah Saleh, head of the intelligence department, said the attacks were masterminded by militants based in Pakistan. He said his agency was looking for 21 suspects believed to be involved in the strikes.
Afghan officials have repeatedly said insurgents get training and equipment from leaders hiding in the tribal areas of Pakistan, close to the porous Afghan border.
The attacks raised concerns among war-weary Kabul residents, who have recently seen a series of suicide attacks in the city protected by thousands of Afghan and international troops.
"Yesterday's attacks really reminded me of the country's civil war," Ahmad Munir, 34, a shopkeeper, said Thursday, referring to the war fought in the 1990s among mujahedin factions after the ouster of Afghanistan's Soviet-backed regime.
"Like that time, the city's streets suddenly were deserted and people were really horrified," he said.
"The people are very worried because they see the Taliban have become so powerful that they can attack a government ministry to seek revenge for the deaths of their comrades," said Waheed Muzhda, a political analyst and a Foreign Ministry official during the Taliban regime.
Wednesday's attacks came ahead of an expected trip by Richard Holbrooke, the special US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Holbrooke is on a fact-finding tour of the region to discuss with leaders in Kabul and Islamabad strategies in their joint fight against the resurgent Taliban.
Under the new US policy and its change of attention from the Iraq war to Afghanistan, up to 30,000 additional US soldiers were expected to be sent to Afghanistan in the next 18 months.
Because of security concerns, Afghan government and US embassy officials would not comment on Holbrooke's trip to Afghanistan.He visited Islamabad this week and was expected to arrive in Kabul Thursday before continuing to India.