Taliban Attack US Embassy, NATO in Kabul

Posted September 13th, 2011 at 2:25 pm (UTC-5)
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Taliban insurgents armed with suicide vests and rocket-propelled grenades have attacked NATO's headquarters, the U.S. Embassy and Afghan police in Kabul. At least seven people have been killed.

Gunfire and bomb blasts could be still heard in the Afghan capital late Tuesday, as security forces worked to repel the assault near the city's diplomatic district.

Afghan police say at least four attackers took over a multi-story building under construction in Kabul's Abdul Haq square and began firing at NATO and the U.S. Embassy. Two other suicide bombers attacked police buildings in western Kabul.

Both NATO and the U.S. Embassy said none of their staff were wounded in the attack.

Afghan officials say four police officers and at least three civilians were killed. More than 19 people were wounded around the capital, including a journalist from Afghan state broadcaster Radio Television Afghanistan.

At least three of the attackers were killed, and Afghan officials say security forces were engaged in a gunbattle at the multi-story building late Tuesday to suppress the remaining insurgents.

A Taliban spokesman told news agencies that the insurgents' primary targets were the Afghan intelligence agency, a ministry, the U.S. Embassy, and NATO.

NATO said a small group of insurgents attacked the vicinity of the U.S. Embassy and coalition headquarters, firing from outside the compound. Both Afghan and NATO forces responded to the attack, with coalition forces also providing air support.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai strongly condemned the attacks saying they will not stop the security transition in Afghanistan, but instead embolden the Afghan people's determination to take responsibility for their own country's affairs.

In Washington, CIA Director David Petraeus told U.S. lawmakers that a rocket-propelled grenade hit the U.S. Embassy complex, wounding four Afghans who were lined up to wait for US visas.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States is working to secure the area and ensure that whose who perpetrated the attack are “dealt with.” Clinton also noted that American civilians are working to assist Afghans with a transition to stability and will not be intimidated by what she called a “cowardly attack.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday's assault would “in no way” deter U.S. commitment to the mission of transferring security control to local forces.

In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters that he was confident that Afghan forces could deal with the situation in Kabul. He also said that the transfer of security from NATO to Afghan forces would not be derailed by such attacks. The NATO chief said transition is on track and will continue.

U.S. and NATO forces are set to withdraw their combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Afghan security forces have already taken security control of several cities and provinces.

Tuesday's attack was the second major assault on the Afghan capital in less than a month.

On August 18, Taliban suicide bombers stormed the British cultural center in Kabul, killing nine people. In June, Taliban militants stormed the Inter-Continental Hotel, sparking a gunbattle that killed 12 people.