Explosions, gunfire rock Afghan capital

Apr 16, 2012, 07:48 IST | Agencies

Taking responsibility for rocket attacks on parliament, assault on government and diplomatic areas, Taliban say attacks are start of spring offensive

The British Embassy in Kabul was under attack yesterday as militants carried out what appeared to be co-ordinated attacks that killed at least two people and injured five others. At least seven sites across the Afghan capital were targeted including NATO headquarters, the parliament and diplomatic residences. Militants also launched near-simultaneous assaults in three other eastern cities. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility.

Bloody sunday: Afghan police run towards to the scene of attacks in Kabul. (Below) An official helps shutting down a shop in between the firing and explosions that killed at least two and injured five others. Pics/AFP

The attacks in the capital began with bombings in Wazir Akbar Khan, where a NATO base, as well as a number of embassies, including that of the US, are located. Gunfire erupted soon after the blasts, forcing people caught out in the street to scramble for cover. Wave of blasts More than 10 explosions in all rocked the capital, and heavy gunfire shook the city for two hours after the initial blast.

In an e-mailed statement, Mujahid said the attacks were targeting NATO headquarters, the British and German Embassies and the Afghan parliament building. “In all these attacks, mujahedeen fighters equipped with light and heavy weapons, suicide vests, RPGs, rockets, heavy machine guns and hand grenades are attacking their targets,” Mujahid said in an e-mail.

Mujahid, added, “The Kabul administration and the invading forces had said some time ago that the Taliban will not be able to launch a spring offensive. Today’s attacks were the start of our spring offensive.” Militants holed up in a tall building were firing rockets in different directions. It was not immediately clear what they were targeting, but shots appeared to be focusing on the nearby British Embassy.

Shots at parliament
Across town, residents reported a blast near the parliament building. An official at the parliament, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said an attacker entered a nearby building and opened fire on parliament and the Afghan Commerce Ministry. The official reported hearing a large blast coming from the building. After that, the gunfire subsided.

Militants also fired mortars at the area around a NATO base on Jalalabad road on Kabul’s outskirts. A police officer said a suicide bomber had occupied a building near the bases and was shooting toward the Kabul Military Training Centre. Sediq Sediqi, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said two suicide attackers were killed. The assaults showed a sophistication that is reminiscent of the last sustained attack in the heavily guarded capital in September 2011.

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