Taliban militants attacked key buildings near Afghanistan’s presidential palace and the US CIA headquarters in Kabul, a brazen assault that could derail attempts at peace talks to end 12 years of war.
The Taliban said they launched the early morning assault, which triggered a 90-minute firefight. The attack was a bitter reminder of the ability of the Taliban to penetrate the heart of the capital.
A US envoy was in Kabul on Tuesday to try to smooth the way forward for the stalled talks in the Gulf state of Qatar ahead of the pullout from Afghanistan of most of the NATO-led troops next year. He had been expected to meet reporters at the US Embassy, but the conference was called off.
Karzai’s whereabouts, who was due to attend the meeting, are not known but a palace official said he was safe.
A Reuters reporter at the palace said the attack began soon after 6.30 a.m. (0200 GMT) when at least one man opened fire with an automatic rifle close to a gate to the palace in central Shash Darak district. The fighting was over before 8 a.m.
A senior government official told Reuters four or five attackers had used fake identify papers to try to make their way through security gates in the Shash Darak district, which leads to Kabul’s most tightly guarded areas.
One car made it through, but a second vehicle was stopped and those inside began shooting. Grenades were thrown.
The area is home to the presidential palace compoundand the US Central Intelligence Agency’s Afghanistan station is based there.
Afghan forces and US servicemen returned fire and explosions resounded through the area. Children walking to school were caught in the shooting, but escaped serious injury.
One of the attackers was killed when he detonated a bomb on his body, and three or four were killed by security forces. At least two Afghan security guards were killed.