The Taliban has launched coordinated attacks on the diplomatic area and NATO headquarters in Kabul, also targeting adjoining provinces. The group says it’s in retaliation for Koran burnings, the US marine urination video and the Kandahar massacre.
The Afghanistan International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed multiple attacks on seven locations across Kabul.
An Afghan National Army soldier keeps watch near the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) as a NATO helicopter flies over the site of an attack in Jalalabad province April 15, 2012. (Reuters / Parwiz)
Afghan police head to the scene of an attack in Kabul (AFP Photo / Jonannes Eisele)
AFP Photo / Jonannes Eisele
Reuters / Omar Sobhani
A Afghan National Army soldier runs near the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) as smoke rises from the site of an attack in Jalalabad province April 15, 2012 (Reuters / Parwiz)
Afghan parliament came under rocket fire, with residents reporting explosions near it. Several attackers attempted to enter the building, but they were driven back by security forces. A police officer was killed and 10 others injured in an explosion near the parliament.
A witness said a rocket-propelled grenade hit the residence of the British ambassador. Two rockets reportedly hit a British Embassy guard tower, according to the reports.
Smoke could also be seen from the direction of the German embassy. Three rockets struck the Japanese embassy, but nobody was hurt and the embassy’s staff was safely evacuated to a nearby air raid shelter, Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported.
There have also been reports that Russian embassy buildings were attacked, though Russian diplomats later denied the embassy was under fire.
Suicide bombers took over the Kabul Star Hotel, known to be used by foreigners, launching rocket and rifle fire.
The Taliban claimed they also attacked President Karzai’s presidential palace compound. Later Karzai’s aide said that the Afghan president is under lockdown in Kabul.
An intelligence official told Agence France-Presse that a group of three targeted the home of Karzai deputy Mohammad Karim Khalili. All three were arrested with suicide vests, guns and other explosives on them.
Afghan security forces reportedly managed to capture two suicide bombers, stopping them en route to their targets.
The Afghan Ministry of Interior Affairs reported at least 17 insurgents and suicide bombers were killed by the Afghan Police Force – including four in Kabul, another four in Jalalabad, three in Paktia, and three in Logar province. Two attackers were arrested. One police officer was killed and 17 police were wounded – 11 in Kabul and three each in Logar and Paktia provinces, the ministry said. Fourteen civilians also were injured in the attacks.
Hours after the first attacks took place, fighting was still underway in the capital, a police chief said. Several blasts and gunfire were reported in central Kabul early Monday.
Attacks only the ‘beginning of spring offensive’ – Taliban
“These attacks are the beginning of the spring offensive, and we had planned them for months,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters.
One of the most serious Taliban assaults in the last 11 years began just before 2 pm local time. A Taliban spokesman said they targeted Afghanistan’s parliament, NATO headquarters, the British and German Embassies, and two hotels and sites along Darulaman Road, where the parliament is located.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the string of attacks shortly after they began, with their spokesman claiming tens of fighters were involved:
“In all these attacks, tens of mujahideen fighters equipped with light and heavy weapons, suicide vests, RPGs, rockets, heavy machine guns and hand grenades are attacking their targets.”
Mujahid added that the attacks had been planned over the course of nearly two months: “It took two months to transfer the weapons and explosives and set up fighters in the specific areas that we planned to attack.”
ANSF stated that the Taliban’s attacks in Kabul were “largely ineffective.”
Several other key locations in the country’s eastern provinces were also targeted.
Four suicide bombers attempted to attack the Jalalabad airport in eastern Afghanistan – an airfield where US troops are based. Two of the attackers blew themselves up after they were stopped at the gate, local officials said. Two others were wounded and arrested.
The Taliban declared that attacks also took place in the eastern Paktia and Logar provinces. In Logar, a group of suicide bombers managed to enter the offices of the provincial governor and the police chief. In Paktia, NATO attack helicopters targeted insurgents holed up in a building.
The video from Kabul, where the Taliban launched coordinated attacks on the diplomatic area and the NATO headquarters.