Taliban ‘spring offensive’ rocks Afghanistan
* Suicide bombers strike in Kabul and three eastern towns
* US, British, German and Japanese embassies come under fire
* Parliament and foreign bases attacked
KABUL: Explosions and gunfire rocked the Afghan capital on Sunday as suicide bombers struck across Afghanistan in coordinated attacks claimed by Taliban insurgents as the start of a spring offensive.
The US, British, German and Japanese embassy compounds came under fire as terrorists attacked the city’s diplomatic enclave and tried to storm parliament – sparking a gun battle in which lawmakers and bodyguards fired back from the rooftop.
Embattled President Hamid Karzai was moved to a safe area and his palace went into lockdown as the capital was hit by a wave of attacks, including a failed attempt to target one of his deputies, officials said.
Insurgents armed with heavy machineguns, rocket-propelled grenades and suicide vests launched what the Taliban spokesman said was a “coordinated attack” in Kabul and three eastern towns near the capital.
In Kabul, the insurgents took up positions in construction sites overlooking government buildings, diplomatic missions and other high-profile targets, unleashing a stand-off with security forces throughout the afternoon and evening.
Lutfullah Mashal, a spokesman for the National Directorate of Security (NDS), said Mohammad Karim Khalili, one of Karzai’s two deputies was one of the targets of Sunday’s attacks. Mashal said the group of three tasked with attacking Khalili’s home in west Kabul was captured before reaching their target.
They claimed they were linked to the Haqqani network, he said, a hardcore Taliban branch accused of masterminding most of the high-profile attacks in Kabul and known to have close links to al Qaeda.
The attacks will raise fears over the precarious security situation in Afghanistan as NATO prepares to withdraw its 130,000 troops by the end of 2014 and hand responsibility for security to Afghan forces.
A spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) told AFP that Afghan forces, whose ability to withstand the Taliban after 2014 has been questioned, were taking the lead in countering the assaults on Kabul. US Ambassador Ryan Crocker said the ability of Afghan security forces to respond to the attacks was a “clear sign of progress”.
But the latest in a series of spectacular attacks shows terrorists still have the ability to strike at the heart of the capital, including ISAF bases. “We took fire (on) Camp Eggers (a major ISAF base in Kabul), ISAF headquarters, Camp Warehouse (along the Jalalabad road) and Camp Gazni (also on Jalalabad Road). No one was hurt,” an ISAF spokesman James Graybeal told AFP.
“We have confirmed attacks on the US, the German and British embassies and had earlier reports of attacks on the Russian embassy,” General Carsten Jacobson, told Al Jazeera television.
Outside the capital, terrorists attacked government buildings in Logar province, the airport in Jalalabad, and a police facility in the town of Gardez in Paktia province.
A total of 19 insurgents died and 14 police and nine civilians were wounded, the Afghan Interior Ministry said. afp