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Taliban storm Afghan parliament

Taliban storm Afghan parliament

Taliban militants launched an assault on the Afghan parliament on Monday, triggering gunfire and explosions and sending lawmakers scurrying for cover in chaotic scenes relayed live on television. Two civilians, including a child, died in the blast.

The attack came as the Afghan president’s nominee for the crucial post of defence minister was to be introduced in parliament and ended two hours later when all seven attackers, including a suicide car bomber, were killed.

The assault on such a high-profile target in downtown Kabul raises fresh questions about security as Afghan forces battle a resurgent Taliban for the first time without the aid of Nato forces, who ended their combat mission in December.

“First a car bomb detonated on the main road near the parliament building, then a group of attackers entered a building in front of parliament,” Kabul police spokesman Ebadullah Karimi said. Two civilians, a woman and a child, were killed in the attack, according to police and the United Nations.

Deputy interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish said there were seven attackers and the health ministry reported 31 people, including five women and a child, wounded. Dramatic television footage of the moment the first explosion struck showed pandemonium and screams inside parliament, with Speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi sitting in his chair, calmly telling lawmakers “it’s an electrical issue”.

MP Mohammad Reza Khoshak, who was in the chamber at the time, described hearing “a loud explosion, followed by several other smaller explosions”. “In a few seconds the hall was filled with smoke and MPs began fleeing the building,” he said.

The Taliban launched a countrywide offensive in late April, stepping up attacks on government and foreign targets. The militants recently rebuffed requests from senior Afghan clerics to halt attacks during the fasting month of Ramadan even as a surge in violence has sent civilian casualties soaring.

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