Deadly Kabul siege finally ends as last Taliban attackers are killed
Published 14/09/2011 | 08:58
The last survivors of a Taliban suicide squad have been killed ending a 20 hour stand off which had brought central Kabul to a standstill.
The final attackers were killed at around 9.00am after Afghan and Nato forces had fought floor by floor to dislodge them through the night.
A spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of the Interior said six attackers had been killed during the siege of a half built high rise block overlooking embassies and ministries. A total of 11 people died during the brazen attack on the centre of the capital, authorities said.
Lieutenant Colonel Jimmie Cummings, an ISAF spokesman, said six foreign troops had also been injured.
Three further suicide bombers had struck elsewhere in the city on Tuesday.
The second day of the siege began with Nato Blackhawk helicopters continuing to circle the tower and heavy gunfire.
Soldiers in both Afghan and Nato battle dress could be seen taking positions near the top of the open concrete block, which was pocked with hundreds of bullet holes.
Afghan security officials said the surviving militants showed no sign of running out of ammunition.
Afghan media reports suggested the attackers had been able to hide a plentiful supply of weapons and ammunition in the block at Abdul Haq roundabout before the attacks.
Such preparation and planning so close to what is supposed to be one of the city's safest districts would raise serious questions about the Afghan forces' ability to secure Kabul.
The violence began when Taliban suicide attackers fired rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles at the American Embassy and Nato headquarters.
The attackers used a half-built tower block overlooking embassies and ministries to launch their attack in what should be the most secure district of the Afghan capital.
The attack started a standoff as besieging Afghan police and soldiers backed by helicopter gunships tried to dislodge the attackers.
Simultaneously other attackers wearing suicide bomb vests attacked police stations and government buildings in the west of the city.
By nightfall at least six people were dead and 10 wounded as the standoff continued, with Afghan forces reportedly backed by Nato special forces soldiers clearing the building floor-by-floor trying to dislodge the surviving militants. At least six insurgents were also killed.
Coalition officials sought to downplay the success of the attack saying it was a propaganda ploy that had failed to inflict casualties on its intended targets.
The United States embassy and the Nato headquarters both said rockets had landed in or nearby their compounds, but no one had been injured inside.
However the highly-coordinated attack was the third spectacular assault on the capital in the past three months and again displayed their ability to launch complex and deadly attacks in the heart of the city.
The summers' attacks have heightened worries among Kabul residents who fear their own forces will be unable to secure the city when foreign troops pull out.
Hamid Karzai's forces take charge of nationwide security by the end of 2014 and within 12 months about third of the 140,000 coalition troops in Afghanistan are expected to have withdrawn.
Hillary Clinton, American secretary of state, said the "cowardly" attack would not deter the US mission in Afghanistan.
She said: "We will take all necessary steps, not only to ensure the safety of our people, but to secure the area and to ensure that those who perpetrated this attack are dealt with."
A Taliban spokesman sent a text message to reporters saying the movement's fighters had carried out the attack on embassies, Nato and the Afghan intelligence service.
The attack began soon after 1pm when up to five attackers seized the nine-storey, half-built tower at Abdul Haq roundabout.
The building offers a commanding view of the nearby Afghan defence ministry and intelligence service and is within sight of the American embassy and Nato HQ.
Militants began firing rockets from the building and the embassy and Nato base soon began reporting rockets landing nearby.
Abdul Baqi, a shopkeeper close to the tower, said: "I was sitting in my shop when suddenly I heard an explosion and then another one. Then there was gunfire.
"People on the streets started running. I had to leave my shop to get to safety." Another rocket landed in the Wazir Akbar Khan area which is home to several embassies and wounded several children in a school minibus.
Meanwhile three suicide bombers struck elsewhere adding to the confusion in the city.
One was killed by police on the road leading from the capital to the airport, and two others when they tried to attack Afghan police buildings in western Kabul close to the national parliament building.
By mid-evening, a Ministry of Interior official had put the total death toll at four dead civilians, two policemen and at least six insurgents.
Hashmat Stanikzai, a spokesman for Kabul police, said: "Security forces have reached the second and third floor [of the multi-storey building]," "Two [of the attackers] are still resisting. We hope their resistance will end soon. They have almost run out of ammunition," he added.
Kabul is far more secure than the southern provinces which have born the brunt of insurgency violence in recent years, but the capital has been rocked by a series of attacks this summer.
On August 18 Taliban suicide bombers stormed a British Council compound killing eight people during an eight-hour firefight while two English language teachers and their bodyguard hid in a locked panic room. A New Zealand special forces soldier was shot in the chest and killed during the rescue operation.
On June 29, nine insurgents wearing suicide vests stormed the Intercontinental Hotel on the eve of a major conference on Afghan governance and held off Nato and Afghan forces until air strikes killed the last insurgents hiding on the roof.