By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Afghan intelligence officials say security forces have repelled a wave of militant attacks in the capital and elsewhere.
The attacks in Kabul mostly targeted government institutions and Western diplomatic and military facilities, while the attacks in the provinces appeared aimed at Afghan security forces and infrastructure.
Afghanistan’s parliament building, the U.S. and German embassies, and a NATO facility were reportedly all struck. Some reports suggested the Russian Embassy was hit, and the Taliban said they also were targeting the Kabul Star hotel.
Sediqi said the insurgents took up positions in empty buildings in three Kabul districts to carry out the attacks, and still held one overnight. Kabul police said they found and detonated a van full of explosives.
Authorities said police had established a security cordon around central Kabul, and were asking residents to stay in their homes as they fought off the last of the gunmen.
Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi said the attacks were carried out by “more than 20 insurgents,” including 19 suicide bombers, and was quoted by CNN as saying that all but one had been killed. Other reports cited 17 militants killed.
The remaining insurgents “have no choice except surrendering or to be killed by the Afghan forces,” Sediqi added.
At least two civilians were killed in the attacks and authorities said some 15 police officers had been injured.
Earlier, Sediqi told Radio Free Afghanistan that checkpoints had been set up around the capital.
“The police have a presence here and have asked people to leave [the affected areas],” Sediqi said. “The most important thing for them is to protect the people. We are working on stopping those responsible for the attacks.”
In Kabul, locals said violence picked up again near nightfall after a brief period of afternoon calm.
In the early evening hours, fighting was continuing in the Wazir Akbar Khan district, the heavily guarded diplomatic area that hosts Western embassies, the Afghan presidential palace, and NATO and UN offices.
Areas near the Afghan parliament as well as the wealthy Sher Pur neighborhood were also seeing sporadic gunfire.
In eastern Kabul, locals said a French convoy and a Greek military base came under attack. According to reports, those troops returned fire with heavy machine guns.
Bloodshed In The Provinces
Outside the capital, Luftullah Mashal, a spokesman for the Afghan National Directorate of Security, the country’s intelligence agency, said fighting had ended in the eastern cities of Gardez and Jalalabad, while pockets of insurgents were still active in Pol-e Alam.
Mashal said security forces had not yet determined the number of casualties or the number of militants involved in those attacks.
“After the end of the operation, international troops and Afghan security forces will reveal the number of the casualties and insurgents involved in these attacks,” Mashal said.
An unconfirmed report by Afghan Shamshad TV claimed that eight or so people had been wounded and two militants killed in the Gardez incident, in Paktia Province, when fighters attacked the city’s police headquarters.
In Jalalabad, the provincial capital of Nangarhar Province, several people were reported injured when two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the city’s airport. But no further violence was reported there.
Fighting was continuing in Pol-e Alam, the capital of Logar Province, south of Kabul, where militants overran a building occupied by a provincial reconstruction team that included foreign workers. Sources said three suicide attackers there had been killed and nine members of the Afghan security forces were injured in heavy fighting.
Taliban And Allies?
The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the coordinated attacks, saying they were working with allied fighters.
Intelligence official Mashal said initial signs pointed to the involvement of the Pakistani-based militant group the Haqqani Network.
He said Afghan police in the country’s north had stopped Haqqani militants planning to assassinate Abdul Karim Khalili, the second vice president of Afghanistan. Two insurgents carrying weapons and explosives were captured in that raid.
“A group of three armed insurgents were targeting the second vice president, Mr. Khalili,” Mashal said. “Afghan security forces captured the three, who were carrying weapons and explosives. The plot shows the hallmarks of the Haqqani Network.”
NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said that “Afghan security forces responded” to the attacks in Kabul.
“The insurgents have taken over locations like one hotel in the center of the city and other installations from where they are indiscriminately firing with rocket-propelled grenades against targets, not so much to hit them or to achieve a military success, but to achieve publicity,” ISAF spokesman General Carsten Jacobson said near the height of the fighting.
“Now this is obviously aimed to send a signal. The signal could very well be that they are able to enter the city,” Jacobsen added. “Well, they might have entered the city today, but Afghan national police is showing them at the very moment very clearly where there limitations are.”
Afghan officials say an upturn in violence at this time of the year is part of the Taliban’s annual spring offensive, following a relative calm period in winter, when militants find it more difficult to travel and operate.
But even they have been surprised at the scale of these attacks, they said.