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Kabul siege shows insurgents' media savvy

world Updated: Sep 18, 2011 13:45 IST

By holding Kabul's diplomatic zone under siege for 19 hours last week, insurgents backed up by a slick media operation again showed their skill at grabbing headlines and drawing out news coverage.

Taliban spokesmen fed the Western press with regular text messages during an attack which - while claiming 15 lives, a moderate toll for Afghanistan - was the longest of its kind yet, dominating international news for two days.

Afterwards, its slick "Voice of Jihad" website - with press releases in languages including English and a logo of crossed swords surrounding a copy of the Koran - carried a detailed, though exaggerated, summary of events.

The attack, which targeted the US embassy and was linked to the Taliban-allied Haqqani network, was the latest in the Afghan capital to show insurgents' grasp of the Western media.

Scott Stewart of intelligence analysts Stratfor said that the assault's planners would have known the type of weapons used - assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades - would not seriously damage the US embassy.

"Because of that, we believe that this attack was intended really to send a message, to be more symbolic in nature," he said.

Many news outlets carried live, minute-by-minute accounts during the event, combining Taliban statements with Twitter updates from witnesses at the scene and breaking news from official sources.

Militants also have a presence on micro-blogging website Twitter, while supporters on Facebook post propaganda videos, often of attacks on foreign troops.