Taliban spring offensive begins with deadly attack in Kabul

Taliban insurgents killed 28 people and wounded hundreds in an assault on a government security agency in the capital, Kabul.

REUTERS/Ahmad Masood
Afghan security forces stand next to damaged vehicles after a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan April 19, 2016.

Taliban attackers in Afghanistan staged an assault on a government security agency in the capital, Kabul, on Tuesday morning, killing at least 28 people and wounding more than 320.

The assault, which include at least two attackers and a car rigged with explosives, came a week after the Taliban announced their annual spring offensive, vowing large-scale attacks" in the 15th year of their war against the U.S.-backed Afghan government.

In Tuesday's assault, the Taliban appear to have targeted an agency similar to the U.S. Secret Service, providing protection for high-ranking government officials.

Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, told a press conference that two militants were involved in the attack. One drove the small truck rigged with hundreds of kilograms of explosives. The second entered the compound in the aftermath of the explosion and opened fire before he was eventually killed.

Sediqqi said the car bomb caused massive damage to buildings and vehicles in the area and added that the death toll could rise.

"With no doubt there was a security vacuum and that needs to investigated, it is too early to comment on that right now," he said.

Ismail Kawasi, spokesman for the Public Health Ministry, said so far 327 wounded have been brought to area hospitals.

"This was one of the most powerful explosions I have ever heard in my life," said Obaidullah Tarakhail, a police commander who was present when the attack began.

Tarakhail added that he couldn't see or hear anything for 20 minutes after the initial explosion. "All around was dark and covered with thick smoke and dust," he said.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack. Taliban insurgents have stepped up their attacks recently since announcing the start of their spring offensive last week.

President Ashraf Ghani issued a statement condemning the attack and saying it, "clearly shows the enemy's defeat in face-to-face battle with Afghan security forces."

The attack in Kabul comes four days after another attack by Taliban insurgents in northern Kunduz province, which was repelled by the Afghan security forces.

Officials in Kunduz said that security has improved in the city and that the Taliban were defeated in other parts of the province, but operations were still underway to clear militant fighters from the rest of the province.

The Taliban held Kunduz for three days last year before being driven out by a two-week counteroffensive aided by U.S.-airstrikes. It was their biggest foray into an urban area since 2001.

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