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Taliban stage mini-Mumbai in Kabul

Eight Taliban gunmen wearing suicide vests attacked three Afghan government buildings on Wednesday in a coordinated assault that killed 20 people in the heart of Kabul. All eight attackers also died.

world Updated: Feb 11, 2009 23:53 IST

Eight Taliban gunmen wearing suicide vests attacked three Afghan government buildings on Wednesday in a coordinated assault that killed 20 people in the heart of Kabul. All eight attackers also died.

The assailants sent three text messages to the leader of their terror cell in Pakistan before launching assault, said Amrullah Saleh, chief of Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, underlining the links between militants in the two countries.

Five men armed with assault rifles and grenades attacked the Justice Ministry in late morning, shooting at workers and temporarily trapping the minister and scores of others inside, witnesses said. The gunmen appeared to hold the building for about two hours before Afghan security forces regained control about midday, according to an AP reporter on the scene. At about the same time, two men in suicide vests blew themselves up at the ministry’s correction department across town.

A third assailant in a suicide vest was shot as he tried to force his way into the Education Ministry, about a kilometre from the Justice Ministry attack, said Defence Ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zahir Azimi.

At least 20 people were killed in the attacks and 57 wounded, said Mohammad Hanif Atmar, the interior minister.

Zabiullah Mujaheed, a spokesman for the Taliban, said the attacks were in response to the alleged mistreatment of Taliban prisoners in Afghan government jails. Saleh compared attacks to the assault on hotels, markets and a train station in
Mumbai last November.

Imams get threats
Pro-Taliban wall chalkings have started to appear in Islamabad as some Imams of local mosques have received messages to join the jihad against the government or face the consequences.

The News, a national English language daily, reports that many religious scholars in Islamabad have received messages from the Taliban that they have only two options, either to support the Taliban or leave the capital.

AP

(With inputs from Kamal Siddiqi)