Insurgents seized half-done building
KABUL, Afghanistan – At least seven heavily armed Taliban insurgents attacked near Afghanistan’s main airport today, apparently trying to attack NATO’s airport headquarters with rocket-propelled grenades, assault rifles and at least one large bomb. Security forces engaged in an hourslong battle and killed all the attackers.
The airport was closed to all civilian air traffic because of the attack, an airport official said. It was unclear if the attack had damaged facilities inside the airport itself.
“Their target is unclear because they are at a distance from the airport. We have lots of installations in that area,” Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi said. “They seem to be trying to hit anything they can.”
Sediqi said two civilians were wounded.
Deputy Kabul police Chief Dawood Amin said there were seven attackers. Two blew themselves up with suicide vests and five were shot and killed by police.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the insurgents were targeting NATO.
It was the latest in a series of attacks against the capital since the start of the year. Taliban insurgents have launched intense attacks across the country as Afghan forces take over most security responsibility ahead of most foreign troops’ withdrawal next year, more than a decade after the American-led invasion. The U.S. came to oust the Taliban regime for sheltering al-Qaida’s leadership after the Islamic extremist group launched the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.
The last major attack occurred on May 24, when six suicide bombers attacked a guest house belonging to the United Nations-affiliated International Organization for Migration, killing three people – including a police officer, a guard and a civilian. On May 16, a suicide bomber rammed a car into a NATO convoy killing 15 people, including two American soldiers and four civilian contractors.
Kabul police said in an announcement that attackers wearing suicide vests had occupied one or two buildings under construction on the west side of the airport and were firing at the military facility, which was quite a distance away. But it was uncertain if they actually managed to hit anything inside the airport.
A statement said there was at least one large explosion at around 4:30 a.m. and a gunbattle began with security forces.
“It first started with a big explosion which we think was a suicide attack. After that a gunbattle started,” Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai said. He added that at least five insurgents then occupied two buildings, located in a single compound, and started firing rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons.
Afghan army Gen. Murad Ali Murad said police and military forces exchanged gunfire with the insurgents.
“Outside the airport, in the civilian area, there is a tall building under construction and they are shooting at the military side from there,” he said.
The U.S.-led NATO coalition’s Joint Command headquarters at the airport runs the day-to-day war operations. The airport’s military side is also used for NATO transport and other aircraft.
“It started just after dawn prayers and I counted about a dozen explosions, mostly RPG fire, coming from the airport,” said Emayatullah, who lives next to the airport. Like many Afghans he uses only one name.
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