Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Afghan Taliban Attack US Embassy & NATO Head-Quarter In Kabul


KABUL: The Taliban launched an attack on the centre of the Afghan capital on Tuesday, hitting Nato’s coalition force headquarters next to the US embassy in Kabul.
Insurgents fired rockets and assault rifles in the direction of the US Embassy, NATO headquarters and other official buildings this afternoon as gunfire and explosions rocked the heart of the Afghan capital. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. The surge of violence was a stark reminder of the instability that continues to plague Afghanistan nearly a decade after the U.S. invasion that ousted the Taliban in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States. Police said the gunmen were firing from a tall office building that is under construction at Kabul’s Abdul Haq square, which is about 300 yards (meters) from the U.S. Embassy. American officials could not immediately be reached for comment. The American Embassy is on the edge of the Wazir Akbar Khan area, and gunfire and explosions rocked the area, which is home to a number of other foreign missions.
The insurgent group said the ongoing assault began with a suicide attack targeting local and foreign intelligence in the capital.
AFP reporters heard a string of loud blasts while police confirme one explosion and a gunfight close to the heavily-guarded embassy compound.
“Today at one o’clock at Kabul’s Abdul Haq roundabout a massive suicide attack on local and foreign intelligence facilities is ongoing,” said a spokesman for the insurgent group, Zabiullah Mujahid, in a text message to AFP.
A Western military source said Nato’s International Security Assistance Force headquarters was one of the targets.
“ISAF HQ is under attack at the moment,” the source said.

An ISAF spokesman would not confirm the headquarters was a target but said: “There is an ongoing attack in the centre of Kabul.”
One eyewitness reported that attackers had taken up position in a tall building under construction and were exchanging fire with security forces. An Afghan National Army installation is nearby, as is a Marriott hotel building site, the witness said.
The US Embassy did not immediately have further information.
The Taliban are leading a bloody 10-year insurgency in Afghanistan. There are around 140,000 foreign troops in the country. (AFP)
Live updates
6:03 Here is a summary of the events
A multi-pronged attack by Taliban militants held Kabul to siege today and raised fresh doubts over the ability of Afghan security forces’ ability to takeover security operations in the country.
For more than six hours insurgents occupied the upper floors of unfinished building in the Afghan capital, raining bullets and rockets toward their three main enemies in the 10-year war – the US embassy, Nato’s HQ and the country’s National Directorate of Security.
The attack began about 1.30pm when insurgents, believed to be disguised in burqas, reached Abdul Haq Square, killing at least one policeman at one of city’s “Ring of Steel” checkpoints and then scampering up the building.
As rockets overshot the embassy, civilians rushed for cover in the affluent Wazir Akbar Khan neighbourhood where several other embassies and foreign non-governmental agencies are housed.
US embassy staff donned flak jackets and helmets and scrambled for their hardened safe rooms as US soldiers climbed on rooftops. Next door at the headquarters of the Nato-led International Assistance and Security Force, sirens rang out and its public address system announced “this is not a drill”. Soldiers were put on lockdown after reports their perimeter had been breached.
Dozens of soldiers were rallied into bunkers and the dining hall, where they armed their weapons and placed chairs against the doors to prevent any incursion.
At the same time, militants in three other locations began their attacks. Two suicide bombers exploded in the west of the city, near the country’s parliament, while a would-be suicide bomber near the airport was shot dead before he could detonate the seven kilograms of explosions he had strapped to his body.
Meanwhile, the insurgents in the 13-story building were proving to be a resilient foe. The choice of location was no surprise – In a low-rise city, a 13 floors is considered a skyscraper. This was why it was chosen
5:46pm Police are now saying the attack is over and all the militants dead. The building is currently being checking for booby-traps.
4.53pm: One attacker is reported to be still fighting.
4:39pm Gunfire is still being heard in Kabul
3.35pm:Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, has just been speaking. She said the US would do everything it could to combat those who committed attack on its embassy and other buildings and was moving to secure the area and “ensure that those who perpetrated this attack are dealt with.”

The map below shows the areas and buildings under attack.


3.09pm: Here is the full press release from the office of the spokesperson to the president of Afghanistan:

H.E. Hamid Karzai (pictured), president of the Islamic republic of Afghanistan has strongly condemned the terrorist attacks in Kabul this afternoon.

Initial reports indicate that terrorists launched attacks in three different locations in Kabul’s Abdul Haq Square, Deh Mazang and on the Dar-ul-Aman Road. The attacks are reported to have injured some people.

Strongly condemning the attack, President Karzai said the enemy does everything they can to affect the process of transition of security responsibilities to Afghan government. “The attacks can not stop the process (transition) from taking place and can not affect, but rather embolden our people’s determination in taking the responsibility for their country’s own affairs”, the President said.

The president also praised the rapid reaction by the brave security personnel in controlling the situation without allowing terrorists to inflict further human and material losses. Their timely reaction demonstrates their improved ability.

The president prayed for a quick recovery of the injured and instructed the ministry of health to put to use all possible resources for the treatment of those injured in the attacks.

2.50pm: The Afghanistan president, Hamid Karzai, has now condemned today’s attacks in Kabul. More details when they become available…

2.36pm: An Afghan health ministry spokesman has told Reuters that one civilian has been killed and 16 wounded in the attack in the fortified embassy district. Kargar Norghuli said he did not have information about casualties among security forces.

2.10pm: A spokesman for the Afghan ministry of public health says they have received 18 wounded people, most of whom he said were civilians.

2.05pm: An Afghan reporter has reportedly been shot in the leg near the US embassy. Afghan journalist Lotfullah Najafizada says the injured reporter was shot by the security forces and not the Taliban attackers.

1.54pm: There has been another explosion heard from Wazir Akbar Khan, more than three-and-a-half hours after the attack commenced.

1.45pm: In line with the claim by the Taliban (see 1.33pm) the ISAF reports that Afghan police has just killed a would-be suicide attacker near Kabul airport. It brings to three the total number of sites of confirmed attacks today.

1.43pm: Lauren Katzenberg, who works for Cetenagroup, a communications firm in Kabul, has been tweeting details of one attack she says took place in front of the company’s office as she was en route to the airport for a meeting in Dubai:
Explosion right in front of my office in Karte Seh. All managers out of office. Praying for my staff.
Damage to my office but no injuries thank god. Police surrounding the area.
My staff reporting bits of suicide bomber blew through the window and now laying on office floor.
Apparently some of my staff watched suicide attack take place in front of our office from 2nd floor. Was targeting police station.
Bomber was walking down our street carrying two large bags. Police told him to stop and he charged the station.

1:39 Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, told the Guardian they choose the unfinished, 13-storey high-rise building as the site of the attack because it is “a very high building and with the targets we had we could easily attack from there – like ISAF HQ, like US embassy, like NDS [national directorate of security] office and other administrations.”

He said there were 10 attackers who were armed with machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and 82mm shoulder-held rockets. He said some also had suicide vests.

The building, which has remained unfinished for several years, was rated as a likely staging point for insurgent attacks. Local TV has reported that the country’s intelligence agencies had forbid the building to be finished because of fears it would be used for an incident like today.

1.33pm: The Taliban has claimed responsibility for attacks in the diplomatic quarter of Kabul and the west, and said it has also launched an attack near the airport. Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the group, said:
We have launched attacks on a road near the airport targeting police and two other areas in the west against security forces.

1.29pm: Despite reports that the militants are surrounded in Wazir Akbar Khan, the violence appears to be ongoing:
Big boom and smoke again at same place- Shash Darak and Jalalabad Rd.. one block from Embassy and NDS/ back of ISAF.#kabul
Explosion/gunfire from Shash Darak/Abdul Haq #Kabul Mortars?

1.19pm: Colonel Mohammad Sabir, commander of the “ring of steel”, who controls the dozens of checkpoints around the city says it is too early to say how attackers got past his men and into the building, Jeremy Kelly writes. Sabir says at least one of his men, who manned a checkpoint near the base of the building, has been killed.

1.11pm: The Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), whose main base is
next to the US Embassy, has released a statement, saying it has not suffered any casualites so far.
A small group of insurgents attacked the vicinity of the US embassy and International Security Assistance Force Afghanistan headquarters today, firing from outside the compound using small arms and rocket-propelled grenades. The attack started around 1:30 p.m (10am BST).
Afghan national security forces and coalition forces immediately responded to the attack, and are still on the scene. Coalition forces are providing air support. There are no reports of ISAF casualties at this time.

1.08pm: Jeremy Kelly, in Kabul says Afghan helicopters are circling the building where remaining militants are holed up in Wazir Akbar Khan.
A damaged vehicle after a rocket-propelled attack in Kabul, Afghanistan A damaged vehicle after a rocket-propelled attack in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photograph: Omar Sobhani/Reuters

12.50pm: Jeremy Kelly, in Kabul, writes that police claim two of the attackers have been killed:
Kabul Police Chief Mohammad Ayub Salangi tells Radio Television Afghanistan that two attackers have been killed. Two still remain but are surrounded by police. Says one Afghan policeman killed, another wounded. Three civilians wounded. Says totals are not definitive.

12.43pm: Jeremy Kelly, in Kabul, reports another loud explosion in Wazir Akbar Khan, behind the US Embassy.
The BBC’s Bilal Sarwary tweets:
RPG lands close to Wazir Akbar mosque inside a traders office . Sadly there are casualties. Ambulances on its way

12.32pm: Press TV, the news network controlled by the Iranian government, says its office in Kabul has “come under attack and several people have been injured”.

12.28pm: Jeremy Kelly, in Kabul, says Blackhawk helicopters have been shooting at attackers in a high-rise building. A source on the scene says fighting is still ongoing with sporadic gunfire still being heard.

12.25pm: The US embassy has released a short statement on the attack:
The US embassy can confirm an attack has occurred in the area of the US embassy, including RPG and small arms fire. We can confirm there are no casualties at this time among Embassy personnel.

12.23pm: Mustafa Kazemi, a journalist with Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH, tweets that the Taliban have confirmed a second series of attacks in another area of the Afghan capital:
Taliban taking responsibility for attacks in 2nd area of Kabul also. The area includes the Karte 3, Deh Mazang, Habibia High School.

12.20pm: Jeremy Kelly sends this brief update from Kabul:
Nato soldiers locked themselves in dining hall, putting chairs up against doors after fears attackers had breached their base. Soldiers still on lock down on base.

12.12pm: One of the rockets damaged a school mini-bus but the Afghan Ministry of Education says there were no students on the mini-bus at the time.
Nato secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen Photograph: Yves Logghe/AP

12.09pm: The Nato Secretary-General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen (left), said the Taliban attacks in Kabul were an attempt to derail plans to hand over security resposibility to Afghan forces in Afghanistan, but would not succeed. He told reporters in Brussels:

We are following the events closely; we have confidence in the Afghan authorities’ ability to deal with this situation. We are witnessing that the Taliban try to test (the) transition but they can’t stop it. Transition is on track and it will continue.

12.04pm: I just spoke to Jeremy Kelly, in Kabul, who said there are reports of two deaths.
He said:
A series of explosions can gunfire [were] heard in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighbourhood of Kabul where there’s a lot of of embassies and aid agencies and the first reports were that five or six militants had got into one of the tallest buildings, unused, from which they were firing towards the US embassy and the Nato mission here in Afghanistan. Local TV is showing …smoke coming from the area where, apparently, rockets had landed.k There were wounded people in the streets. The head of the secret poilce was on TV saying at least one policemand and at least one civilian had been killed.

This is the latests in a series of high profile attacks in the capital, Kabul …The militants are showing that they can act inside Kabul, the most heavily secured part of the country.

11.57am: Jeremy Kelly, in Kabul, says there are Nato helicopters above the city now and Afghan channel TV1 is reporting two explosions in western part of Kabul, on the road to the country’s parliament.

11.56am: Here’s a link to the latest Guardian story on the blasts.

11.49am: At least six explosions have been heard according to Reuters, which quotes the Taliban as saying attackers are armed with rocket-propelled grenades and suicide vests
Policemen arrive at the site of a rocket-propelled attack in Kabul, Afghanistan Policemen arrive at the site of a rocket-propelled attack in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photograph: Omar Sobhani/Reuters

Mohammad Zahir, head of Kabul’s criminal investigation unit told Reuters:
There are five attackers involved but I can not give you more details because the operation is ongoing.
Nadira Hayat Burhani, the deputy head of the health ministry, said four wounded civilians had been admitted to two hospitals.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed in a text message that the target is the offices of the Afghan intelligence service.
Saad Mohseni tweets that the Taliban statement indicates they attacked the US embassy and ISAF headquarters “because they were cornered”.
Lotfullah Najafizada, from Tolo News in Afghanistan, tweets:

Attack is expected to last another hour – said a Kabul police official at the scene.

11.31am: The US embassy in Kabul has come under attack. Jeremy Kelly, in Kabul, writes:

Explosions and gunfire rattled Kabul this morning after militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades and suicide vests attacked government buildings, the US embassy, and Nato’s main military base in the Afghan capital.

Witnesses said that some of the attackers were firing from positions in a tall, half-complete building behind the embassy.

A series of explosions could be heard in the affluent Wazir Akbar Khan area, where many embassies and foreign aid agencies reside.

A Taliban spokesman said several attackers with rocket-propelled grenades, AK-47s and suicide vests had taken up positions to attack government buildings.

“The primary targets of the attackers are the intelligence agency building and a ministry,” Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters by phone.

At least six loud explosions were heard, and the headquarters of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force was also reported to have come under attack.

Television pictures from near the attack showed a burned out minivan, a bicycle lying in the middle of the street and people running away.

Police and other security officials blocked roads around the US embassy and other diplomatic missions. “There are several armed attackers in Abdul Haq Square,” Mohammad Zahir, head of Kabul’s Crime Investigation Unit told the Associated Press.

At least four civilians have been wounded, according to Nadira Hayat Burhani, the deputy head of the health ministry. BBC correspondent Quentin Somerville tweeted that a rocket had landed 100 metres from the BBC office in Wazir Akbar Khan that could have been shot over the embassy.

He said US marines were on the roof of the embassy and sirens could be heard coming from ISAF.

The city has been on a heightened security alert in recent weeks following a series of attacks including one on the British Council last month. Violence in Afghanistan is at its worst since US-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban government in late 2001, with high levels of foreign troop deaths and record civilian casualties.

PKKH

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