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Friday, September 30, 2011

Insurgents Attack U.S. Embassy In Afghanistan

(Daud Yardost)
Journalists stand near a bullet-ridden van during Tuesday's attack in Kabul.

Insurgents reportedly firing rockets and assault rifles launched a brazen attack Tuesday in an area of Afghanistan’s capital that houses the U.S. Embassy, NATO headquarters and other government buildings.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault that rocked the diplomatic district in Kabul.

A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman said no staff members were reported wounded, but officials said at least one Afghan police officer and two insurgents had been killed as gunfire and explosions resounded across the city well into the afternoon.

The surge of violence was a stark reminder of the instability that continues to plague Afghanistan nearly a decade after the U.S. invasion that ousted the Taliban in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States.

This … is a high-profile attack in the middle of the most secure part of Kabul, and the insurgency could be trying to demonstrate that they can hit anywhere at any time,” NPR’s Quil Lawrence said.

Lawrence, reporting from a rooftop in central Kabul, said the assault began with a series of explosions.

Eye-witnesses said they heard loud blasts as a group of insurgents stormed into a sky-scraper under construction in Wazir Akhabar Khan, one of Kabul’s most heavily secured neighborhoods. The gunmen then began to target the U.S. Embassy, NATO headquarters and an American military base.

They set off what sounded like three possibly suicide blasts before rushing to the building, and they’re now raining down rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons fire across both the U.S. Embassy compound and the large compound which holds the … NATO headquarters here in the center of the diplomatic district in Kabul.”

Police said gunmen were firing from a tall office building under construction at Abdul Haq square, which is about 300 yards from the embassy.

One rocket-propelled grenade hit behind a minivan carrying school children, while another landed on a building housing privately owned Tolo TV. After an hour of sustained gunfire, U.S. special forces in helicopters arrived and exchange fire with the insurgents in the building site, Lawrence said.

The gunbattle is continuing,” Interior Ministry spokesman Sadiq Sadiqi said.

Miles away in western Kabul, a suicide bomber attacked a police station in what appeared to be a synchronized attack.

Plumes of smoke rose from the area near the embassy as the helicopters buzzed overhead.

Lawrence said police had cordoned off a large section of the city. He said he could hear the sound of “steady but sporadic fire” amid alert sirens from the U.S. Embassy, where people were warned over the PA system to stay under cover. The compound also is home to a number of other foreign missions.

There are Afghan soldiers and Afghan anti-terrorism personnel all over the streets,” he said, adding that the area of Kabul has been under Afghan security control since this summer.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said a number of suicide bombers were attacking Afghan and foreign soldiers at the square. He claimed in a text message that suicide bombers using assault rifles were attacking the offices of the Afghan intelligence service.

U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Kerri Hannan issued a statement confirming an attack by gunmen firing rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire.

We can confirm there are no casualties at this time among embassy personnel,” she said.

NPR's Quil Lawrence reported from Kabul, Afghanistan, for this story, which contains material from The Associated Press.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit





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