Coordinated Taliban Strikes Rock Afghanistan

Posted April 15th, 2012 at 5:40 pm (UTC-5)
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Taliban militants in Afghanistan have carried out coordinated attacks in the capital, Kabul, and three eastern provinces as part of what they call their “spring offensive.”

The attacks targeted the parliament, NATO headquarters in Kabul 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.

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.”

Similar violence erupted in Jalalabad City in Nangahar province, Gardez in Paktia province and in Logar province.

After the initial attacks, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the assaults and warned that operations by suicide bombers were still underway.

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.

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

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.

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 on Sunday, U.S. Ambassador to Kabul Ryan 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.