Taliban launch coordinated attacks on foreign embassies, Afghan parliament
Taliban insurgents on Sunday launched coordinated attacks on foreign embassies, a military base and the Afghan parliament in the Afghan capital Kabul, dpa reported.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said it was the start of the spring offensive against Afghan and foreign troops.
In Kabul, armed insurgents attacked in at least three different locations.
Hashmat Stanikzai, spokesman for the Kabul police, said several insurgents armed with heavy and light weapons began attacking three locations in Kabul and the battled were ongoing.
"The attackers occupied an empty building under construction in front of the Afghan parliament and began shooting towards the parliament building," Stanikzai told dpa.
"Afghan police are repelling the attacks right now. They have already gunned down two or three attackers; at least one is still resisting."
Some parliamentarians also started shooting at the insurgents, a lawmaker said, asking not to be named.
In another area, at least three armed assailants "occupied a building under construction, next to Kabul Star Hotel in Street 17 of Wazir Akbar Khan and started lobbing rockets and hand grenades in random directions including some embassies close to the building," Stanikzai said.
Wazir Akbar Khan area is a highly secured diplomatic enclave in Kabul that hosts at least half a dozen embassies, including the German, British, Turkish and Iranian, along with the presidential palace and a US military camp.
One of the assailant was killed in the gunbattle with the Afghan special forces, Stanikzai said.
In the east of the city, a number of insurgents entered a building and started firing indiscriminately, he said. The attack targeted a military academy of the Afghan forces and a Turkish army base.
Ministry of Interior in a statement said at least five civilians were injured in Kabul attacks..
Stanikzai said the officials were still waiting for exact casualties figure for the Afghan forces but said "we have reports of some deaths among the Afghan security forces."
Afghan police in a statement said they found a vehicle full of explosives near the parliament building before it was detonated by the security forces.
"We have also arrested two other suicide bombers and their coordinator in Kabul city just after the attacks began," the statement said.
Officials confirmed the gunfight was still ongoing in all three locations in Kabul.
Security sources said at least three bombs landed inside the Japanese Embassy. An official at the German foreign ministry said a part of their embassy building in Kabul was damaged.
At least one grenade was lobbed into the Russian embassy near the parliament while the attackers fired a rocket-propelled grenade near the British embassy guard tower.
There were unconfirmed reports of the presidential palace coming under attack. An Afghan official said the palace remained safe.
Coordinated attacks of such daring magnitude have not taken place in Kabul since September when Taliban insurgents targeted the highly fortified US Embassy and the NATO headquarters.
The ensuing gunbattles went on for more than 20 hours. At least 25 civilians were killed.
Taliban insurgents also attacked three others cities on Sunday.
Four explosions took place in Jalalabad, the capital of the eastern province of Nangarhar, which borders Pakistan, said Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, the spokesman for the provincial governor, adding that the insurgents targeted the NATO-led military base in the city.
The incident was over without any casualties, the Interior Ministry said.
In the provincial capital of Logar, "a couple of terrorists occupied a government building in Pul-e-Alam and started a gunfight," the ministry said in a statement.
Three policemen were wounded, it said.
Five insurgents also targeted the governor's office in the city of Gardez, the capital of eastern Paktia province.
The ministry said four were killed while the fifth was arrested.