WATCH: Taliban militants launch an audacious attack in central Kabul
The Taliban has claimed responsibility for a series of violent, coordinated attacks in Kabul on the U.S. Embassy, NATO headquarters, and several other buildings.
Six people are dead and 12 wounded in what is the third major insurgent attack since June.
The insurgents launched the embassy, NATO, and other sites in the capital while suicide bombers targeted police buildings in assaults that underscored the strength of the insurgent network.
Armed with rocket propelled grenades, heavy machine guns, and assault rifles, fighters stormed a multistory building under construction and used it as a fortress tower for several hours as they launched attacks on nearby embassies and the NATO compound.
Rahimullah Samandar, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan Kabul bureau director, reported from the scene that Afghan police blocked off roads leading to diplomatic missions while security forces battled militants inside buildings.
Gunfire and explosions resounded across Kabul well into the afternoon. At least two insurgents were still on the top floors of a nine-story building by late evening, police said.
Afghan officials said the violence left four Afghan police officers and two civilians dead. Twelve people were wounded, including a small girl waiting for a visa near the U.S. Embassy building.
NATO and U.S. officials said none of their staff was among the dead or injured.
A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the violence, saying the targets included the headquarters of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the U.S. Embassy, and Afghanistan's intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), as well as other "sensitive government facilities."
The attack is one of the Taliban's most ambitious commando-style operations to date in its fight to evict Afghanistan's central government from power and defeat tens of thousands of NATO-led troops.
In a statement, Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack and said that it would not deter Afghan security forces from taking full responsibility for the country's security by the end of 2014, when international combat forces are withdrawn.
In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Western civilians working in Afghanistan to support the NATO mission "will not be intimidated by this kind of cowardly attack."
"The opposition of violent extremists, the Taliban and their allies, engage in a constant effort to threaten and to undermine the peace and progress of the Afghan people," Clinton said. "So we will be vigilant, but we will be continuing with even greater commitment to doing all we can to give the Afghan people who have suffered so much a chance at a better future for themselves and their children."
In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the "enemies of Afghanistan" were trying to disrupt the handing over of security responsibility to the Afghan army and police.
During the attack, U.S. helicopters buzzed the skies above the embassy buildings and at least two NATO helicopters were seen circling and firing into the building, which is near Kabul's central Abdul Haq square.
A NATO statement said the response to the attacks was "Afghan-led."
Kabul police said at least seven insurgents were involved: four gunmen attacked from the fortress building and three attempted to carry out suicide attacks.
All three suicide bombers were killed by police, at least one before his vest detonated.
"The suicide bombers are on the building and are firing," Kabul resident Khawani told RFE/RL while the attacks were raging. "You can hear the explosions. I escaped from my cigarette shop because it was near the site."
Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sadiq Sediqqi told RFE/RL during the attack that gunmen had fortified themselves within the tower.
"[According to the immediate information I have received from the area], three or four gunmen are hiding in a building and firing at police,' Sediqqi said. "I can't say what their potential target could be, but that is a residential area. I basically think [the attack] is aimed at terrorizing and killing innocent civilians."
At least two rockets landed in the upscale residential and shopping district of Wazir Akbar Khan, which is home to the embassies of the United States, Britain, and other Western governments.
Just The Latest Attack
The attacks were the third major attack in Kabul since June.
On August 18 Taliban suicide bombers stormed a British compound and killed eight people during a day-long firefight.
One June 29, nine insurgents stormed the Intercontinental Hotel armed with rifles and rocket launchers and killed at least 12 people during a five-hour siege.
The United States just marked the 10th anniversary of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, which was launched by members of Al-Qaeda operating from within Afghanistan.
written by Ron Synovitz and Heather Maher with reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan correspondents in Kabul and Prague and agency reports