Taliban militants gunned down in attack on guesthouse in Afghanistan

Taliban militants are targeting guest houses and hotels in recent attacks in Afghanistan, U.S. officials say

An hours-long Taliban attack in Kabul's diplomatic quarter ended Wednesday morning with Afghan security forces gunning down three attackers and a suicide bomber dead.

The attack began late Tuesday evening as four assailants, including a suicide bomber who detonated his explosives at the entrance, tried to take over a guesthouse in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood, home to embassies and foreign missions.

After a six-hour standoff between the Crisis Response Unit of the Afghan National Police and the three well-armed gunmen, there were no reported casualties among civilians or the Afghan forces.

In the hours following the 11 p.m. suicide bombing, residents reported hearing heavy gunfire and at least 20 explosions. Those were attributed to the machine guns and 20 hand grenades said to be found on the scene.

President Ashraf Ghani praised the Afghan response and condemned the attack, saying, “Our security forces once again proved that they are capable to defend our country and people against any threats and disruptive efforts.”

Sediq Sediqqi, Interior Ministry spokesman, said the lack of casualties among the security showed the soldiers' and police's growing strength. In a Twitter message, Sediqqi even took a swipe at Iraqi security forces, which U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter recently criticized as lacking "the will to fight" Islamic State militants.

"We accept that we have challenges, but we know how 2 deal with it, it is not Iraq, we fight back with full force. 4 terrorists killed by [Afghan national police]," he tweeted.

Since most international troops have withdrawn from Afghanistan, the capability of the 350,000-strong Afghan security forces has repeatedly come under question. Taliban insurgents have gained ground in northern and eastern Afghanistan, with casualties among the security forces reaching record highs.

The Tuesday attack on the Heetal Guest House, owned by Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, comes nearly two weeks after an attack on the Park Palace Guest House and Hotel, not far from the Heetal.

That attack ended in 14 deaths, including five Afghan aid workers.

"The recent targeting of guest houses and hotels by the Taliban shows their complete disregard for civilian lives," the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said in a statement condemning Wednesday's attack.

Latifi is a special correspondent.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times


4:28 a.m.: This story was updated with a comment from the Afghan president.

2:41 a.m.: This story was updated to include a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. 

This story was posted at 12:54 a.m.