Taliban attack across Kabul, target U.S. Embassy
KABUL (Reuters) – Taliban fighters fired rockets at the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul on Tuesday and attacked police in three other areas in the biggest assault the insurgent group has mounted on the Afghan capital.
At least 9 people were killed and 23 wounded in the four attacks, and a gun battle around a half-built high-rise building raged on into the evening as NATO and Afghan attack helicopters circled overhead.
The fighters had chosen a strategic and heavily fortified main target for the well-coordinated attacks.
Their ability to shower artillery around the diplomatic district was a clear show of strength at a time when NATO-led forces are claiming significant security gains and preparing for their exit by 2014.
Although the Taliban have attacked multiple targets in Kabul in the past, this is the first time they have organized simultaneous assaults on such separate areas.
“The scale of today’s attack is unprecedented,” said Andrew Exum, fellow at the Center for a New American Security.
“There was almost certainly either a break-down in security among the Afghans with responsibility for Kabul or an intelligence failure.”
A squad of about five insurgents took over a shopping center under construction on the outskirts of Kabul’s diplomatic district armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers, AK-47s and suicide vests.
Explosions were interspersed with gunfire all afternoon and several rockets landed in upmarket Wazir Akbar Khan district, near the British and other embassies. One hit a school bus but it appeared to have been empty at the time.
The gun battle around Abdul Haq square went on into the early evening, with three attackers killed and one or two still at large nearly eight hours after the assault began, the Interior Ministry said.
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