An all-night siege in a prosperous neighbourhood of the Afghan capital, Kabul, ended in the early hours of yesterday morning with the deaths of four heavily armed Taleban attackers. No civilians or security personnel were injured or killed, an Afghan official said.
The attack came amid intensified fighting across many parts of the country, following the start in late April of the annual Taleban warm weather offensive. A Taleban attack on a guesthouse in another part of Kabul earlier this month left 14 people dead, including nine foreigners.
Yesterday’s siege ended after 5am in a sustained barrage of automatic weapons fire and a series of huge explosions that resounded across the Wazir Akbar Khan district of downtown Kabul, home to many embassies and foreign firms.
President Ashraf Ghani condemned what he called a “terrorist attack” and praised the quick response of security forces.
Speaking to reporters outside the guesthouse that was the target of the six-hour assault, Kabul’s police chief General Abdul Rahman Rahimi said four attackers were involved and all had been killed “before reaching their target”.
The Taleban claimed responsibility for the attack in tweets on a recognised Twitter account. They referred to the target as “belonging to the occupiers”.
Deputy interior minister Mohammad Ayub Salangi said weapons had been seized at the site of the assault, including a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, three automatic rifles and a hand grenade.
The US embassy said in a statement that the Taleban strategy of targeting of guest houses and hotels “shows their complete disregard for civilian lives”. It said all embassy staff were accounted for and safe.
The United Nations has already documented a record high number of civilian casualties – 974 killed and 1,963 injured – in the first four months of 2015, a 16 per cent increase on last year.
The siege began on Tuesday, with heavy explosions accompanying sporadic automatic rifle fire, and was focused on the Rabbani Guesthouse, which is favoured by foreigners as the area is in the heart of the diplomatic district and close to the airport.
The attackers fired a rocket propelled grenade at its heavy steel front gate, but it was not damaged enough to allow the militants entry. The hours of shooting seem to have marked a showdown as the militants sought cover and police waited for daylight to identify and move in on their targets.
Guards at the hotel gate said the attackers retreated into a guardhouse where they were tried to hide from police.