Suicide car bomber strikes at entrance to Afghan parliament
The Taliban launched a complex attack on the Afghan parliament today.
A suicide car bomber struck at the entrance and gunmen battled police as politicians were meeting inside to confirm the appointment of a defence minister, police and witnesses said.
Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said the attack began with a car bomb explosion near the entrance. Gunmen then attempted to storm the compound in the capital, Kabul, but were pushed back by security forces and eventually took refuge in a nearby building under construction, he said, adding that police have surrounded the structure.
Mr Sediqqi said all the MPs inside parliament were safe. Health Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ismail Kahousi said 18 civilians were injured, including two women and two children.
Sidiqa Mubarez, a member of parliament, said the building was rocked by a large explosion and that some people were wounded by flying glass. She said the explosion happened shortly after Masoom Stanekzai had arrived to be confirmed as defence minister, a post that has been vacant for nine months.
The Taliban said in a statement that they carried out a suicide bombing outside parliament.
An Associated Press reporter heard heavy gunfire outside the compound and saw black smoke billowing from the entrance as ambulances raced to the scene. The reporter later heard sporadic shooting from the building where the militants were said to be holed up.
Just down the street, hundreds of children were evacuated from a school.
Taliban insurgents have launched complex attacks on government targets in the capital in the past.
They have also been advancing across the country's north, capturing two districts of the Kunduz province in as many days.
Mohammad Yusuf Ayubi, head of the provincial council, said the insurgents attacked the district of Dashti Archi from four sides, setting off heavy fighting before seizing full control of the area early today. He said local forces suffered casualties but did not have a precise number.
He said around 150,000 residents of the district were unable to leave.
The Taliban confirmed in a statement that they had captured the district, as well as ammunition and four tanks.
The Taliban seized control of Chardara district in Kunduz yesterday. The insurgents attacked the provincial capital, also called Kunduz, in a surprise attack in April and nearly captured the city before Afghan forces pushed them back.
Afghan forces have struggled to fend off Taliban advances since the US and Nato combat mission officially concluded at the end of last year.