KABUL, Afghanistan -- Militants launched a pre-dawn attack Tuesday on a NATO supply company’s compound in Kabul, killing at least seven people as insurgents continued to step up high-profile assaults within the Afghan capital.
The attack occurred at about 4:30 a.m. at a heavily secured compound run by C3PO, an international logistics firm that provides supplies and transport services to NATO troops in Afghanistan and carries out construction work across the country, said an official at C3PO, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The compound also houses a hotel catering to international firms and government agencies working in Afghanistan, the C3PO official said.
The assault began when a suicide bomber detonated his truck packed with explosives at the compound’s front entrance, said Mohammad Daud Amin, a deputy Kabul police chief. The blast killed two Afghan truck drivers parked outside the gate.
Four other suicide bombers then ran into the compound and exchanged gunfire with guards at the compound, Amin said. Four Nepalese guards and an Afghan guard deployed to secure the compound were killed in the gunfire.
Afghan police arrived and after about an hour, shot and killed the four attackers, the Afghan Interior Ministry said in a statement. At least five Afghan civilians were injured in the attack. The blast also damaged nearby buildings housing other international logistics companies, Amin said.
The Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
In recent weeks, insurgents have ramped up attacks on military and civilian targets, with several of the assaults and bombings occurring in the capital.
Last week, a team of insurgents was able to get past a perimeter gate at the presidential palace compound in Kabul before being shot and killed by Afghan security forces. Three Afghan guards died in that attack.
In mid-June, a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb in front of the Afghan Supreme Court in Kabul, killing 17 people and injuring 38 others. A day before that attack, seven militants were killed while trying to storm the military portion of Kabul International Airport.
The surge in attacks reflects the Taliban’s resolve to maintain military pressure on Afghan and U.S.-led coalition forces even as the insurgent movement establishes its new political office in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar in preparation for talks aimed at ending nearly 12 years of conflict in the war-torn nation.
A rift between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and officials in Washington has held up the talks. Karzai was angered that the U.S. did not insist that the Taliban renounce violence, communicate directly with the Afghan government and recognize the country’s constitution before being allowed to enter into peace negotiations.
Karzai also was unhappy that the Taliban opened its office in Doha, Qatar’s capital, under its own banner of the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” and its own flag. U.S. officials say the sign and the flag have been removed.
Staff writer Alex Rodriguez reported from Islamabad, Pakistan, and special correspondent Hashmat Baktash reported from Kabul.