Attack Continues in Afghan Capital

Posted April 15th, 2012 at 11:00 pm (UTC-5)
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Afghanistan's capital awoke to a second day of intense gunfire and loud explosions Monday.

Afghan officials say security personnel are exchanging fire with militants holed up in a building in Kabul's central diplomatic area, where insurgents began their coordinated attacks Sunday.

The attacks targeted the parliament, NATO headquarters and an area that includes the U.S., German and British embassies. Suicide blasts in the capital were followed by intense gunfire and rocket attacks. Dark smoke rose into the sky as Afghan troops rushed into the streets with weapons drawn. Residents took cover indoors and emergency alarms blared throughout the city.

The militants also struck three eastern provinces Sunday as part of what they called their “spring offensive.”

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assaults.

Afghanistan's Interior Ministry reported that 19 attackers were killed and that 14 police officers and 9 civilians were wounded. Western embassies said none of their staff members was hurt. Government officials said at least three suspects have been detained.

NATO commander General John Allen praised Afghan security forces for their quick and well-coordinated response to the attacks. He said international forces are standing by to support their Afghan partners “when and if they need it.”

NATO spokesman Carsten Jacobson said insurgents were “indiscriminantly” firing at targets, not to “achieve a military success, but to achieve publicity.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the attacks “cowardly” during a call to U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker to assess the situation on the ground.

Violence has continued in the country as coalition forces have begun withdrawing from Afghanistan and transferring security responsibility to their Afghan counterparts.

During an interview with CNN Sunday, U.S. Ambassador Crocker said Afghan security forces responded “very professionally” to the coordinated strikes. The envoy noted Afghan troops successfully captured and killed suspects while suffering relatively few casualties of their own.

The United States and Afghanistan are also pushing toward completion of a long-term strategic agreement defining the U.S. presence in Afghanistan once all foreign combat troops leave the country by 2014.