Kabul under Taliban attack

12 killed as terrorists launch serial strikes paralysing Afghan capital

Kabul under Taliban attack

Afghan policemen gather around a shopping mall following the Taliban attack in Kabul on Monday. REUTERS

The attacks paralysed the city for hours killing at least 12 people, including seven attackers, as hundreds of Afghan commandos converged and opened fire. The battle unfolded in the middle of Pashtunistan Square, a traffic circle that holds the palace of President Hamid Karzai and the Ministry of Justice and the Central Bank, which appeared to be the object of the attack.

As the gun battle raged, another suicide bomber—this one driving an ambulance—struck a traffic circle a half-a-mile away, sending a second mass of bystanders fleeing in terror.
Five hours after the attack began, gunfire was still echoing through the downtown, as commandos cornered the last holdouts in a nearby office building. At least four soldiers and one civilian were killed, and 38 people were wounded. The Faroshga market, one of the city’s most popular shopping malls, lay in ruins, shattered and burning and belching smoke.

The corpses of two of the militants lay splayed under blankets, their heads and bodies riddled and smashed. The effect of the attack seemed primarily psychological, designed to strike fear into the usually quiet precincts of downtown Kabul, and to drive home the ease with which insurgents could strike the American-backed government here.
In that way the assault succeeded without question: The streets of Kabul emptied, merchants shuttered their shops and Afghans ran from their offices. Even guards assigned to Karzai himself came to join the fighting; it was that close.

“All of a sudden three men came in wrapped in shawls—and then they pulled them off and we could see their guns and grenades,” said an Afghan man who witnessed one part of the attack on an adjacent shopping centre. “They told us to get out, and then they went to the roof and started firing.” The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Reached by the telephone, a spokesman said the group had sent 20 suicide bombers for the operation. This was an exaggeration.

“Some of our suicide bombers have blown themselves up, bringing heavy casualties to government officials,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban.
Civilians were caught up, too. At the height of it, women and men, some of them clutching babies, ran down the streets, some bleeding, some moaning and crying. Even a stray dog, frightened by the blast, dashed wildly down the street.

The New York Times

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