Attacks in Afghanistan end after 18 hours of intense battle


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REPORTING FROM KABUL, AFGHANISTAN and NEW DELHI -- Fighting ended Monday morning about 18 hours after the Taliban launched a coordinated attack on Western embassies, NATO headquarters and Afghan government facilities in Kabul and three eastern provinces.

The attacks, marked by extensive gunfire, explosions and rocket attacks and among the most serious to hit the capital since the Taliban was driven from power in 2001, saw eight Afghan security personnel and three civilians killed, Interior Minister Besmillah Mohammadi said.


Afghan officials added that at least 36 insurgents were killed and more than a dozen wounded or captured.

Soon after daybreak Monday, security forces managed to flush out insurgents holed up near embassies in Kabul’s heavily guarded Akbar Khan diplomatic neighborhood, officials said. The Taliban took credit for the protracted assault, saying it was part of a ‘spring offensive.’

Fighting continued for a few more hours around the parliament building, among the last areas to be fully controlled. Video showed soldiers scaling scaffolding, outflanking militants who appeared to have ensconced themselves near the top of a construction site in Kabul.

Three of the attacks in Kabul were mounted from high-rise construction sites, affording fighters a superior vantage point and cover behind green protective netting. This suggests that Afghan security forces didn’t take sufficient notice of a similar operation in Kabul last September that saw unoccupied buildings used for rocket attacks on the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters.

The tactic underscored the insurgents’ flexibility, some experts said.

‘The Taliban is constantly developing new methods of attack,’ said Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University. ‘If they succeed, they may continue to use them, otherwise they move on.’

The attacks hit a month before a NATO summit at which the United States and its allies are supposed to further refine plans for the 2014 withdrawal of many of the 130,000 foreign troops now stationed in the country and the transfer of security to Afghan forces.



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-- Hashmat Baktash and Mark Magnier