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Attacks Grip Afghan Capital And Other Cities


Militants Attack The Afghan Capital
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Afghan security forces responded to explosions and automatic gunfire in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on April 15. (Video by RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan)

KABUL -- Afghan intelligence officials say security forces have repelled a wave of militant attacks in the capital and elsewhere.

Government forces told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that they are now in control of the Shirpoor and Darulaman districts in Kabul, the last areas where fighting following the coordinated attacks that began on April 15 was continuing.

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 NATO and UN offices were all among the struck.

Afghan authorities say 36 insurgents were killed in fighting in the capital and three other provinces, and that eight security troops and three civilians were killed.

Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi said the insurgents had taken up positions in empty buildings in three Kabul districts to carry out the attacks. Kabul police said they found and detonated a van full of explosives.

Sediqi said at least 19 suicide bombers had been involved in the attacks.

During the fighting, police established a security cordon around central Kabul and asked residents to stay in their homes as they fought off the last of the gunmen.

The remaining insurgents "have no choice except surrendering or to be killed by the Afghan forces," Sediqi said after checkpoints were 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."

Afghan police officers take up positions during the attacks in Kabul on April 15.
Afghan police officers take up positions during the attacks in Kabul on April 15.

Fighting had continued into the night in the Wazir Akbar Khan district, the heavily guarded diplomatic area that hosts Western embassies, the Afghan presidential palace, and NATO headquarters and UN offices.

Areas near the Afghan parliament as well as the wealthy Sher Pur neighborhood were also targeted.

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 late on April 15 that 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.

At least two militants were killed in the Gardez incident, in Paktia Province, when fighters attacked the city's police headquarters.

In Jalalabad, the provincial capital of Nangarhar Province, two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the city's airport. But no further violence was reported there.

Fighting was also drawn out 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 at least nine members of the Afghan security forces were injured in heavy fighting.

Taliban And Allies?

The Taliban 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.

With additional reporting by Reuters and AP