Coordinated Kabul assault shows Taliban strength
Insurgents attacked three government offices in a heavily fortified area Wednesday, a day before US envoy Holbrooke's visit.
Insurgents attacked three government offices in Kabul on Wednesday, killing at least 26 and wounding nearly 60. The assault was one of the most complex and daring to take place in the Afghan capital since 2001.Skip to next paragraph
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Five armed militants stormed the Ministry of Justice building, in a crowded section of downtown, killing some workers and taking others hostage. Afghan security forces exchanged gunfire for hours before freeing the hostages and killing all of the insurgents. At the same time, suicide bombers assailed a government prison affairs office in the north of the city, while a gunman opened fire outside the education ministry before being killed by police.
The attacks come as the Obama administration is reviewing US strategy in Afghanistan. US special representative Richard Holbrooke is due to visit Kabul Thursday from Pakistan as part of a South Asian tour, and President Obama is expected to decide within days whether to send as many as 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.
Major incidents like this will certainly affect the debate in Washington, says Waliullah Rahmani, an expert on the insurgency with the Kabul Center for Strategic Studies. "If the insurgents can continually strike at the heart of the heavily fortified capital," he says, "it undermines Washington's faith in the Afghan government to provide security and could push them to send many more troops."
More high-profile assaults in Kabul
Wednesday's attack is the latest in a series of high-profile assaults in Kabul. In January, a car bomb detonated near the German Embassy, killing civilians and US soldiers. Last July, a car bomb targeted the Indian Embassy, killing at least 50 people. Gunmen tried to assassinate President Hamid Karzai last spring and stormed a luxury hotel early last year. In most of these cases, the insurgents were able to circumvent tight security.
On Wednesday, the gunmen were carrying large amounts of weaponry – including knives, grenade launchers, Kalashnikovs, and suicide vests – according to Afghan security officials.
"It concerns me that the enemy is able to bring explosives into the city, despite the security," says Interior Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar.