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Published On: Tue, Sep 13th, 2011

US Embassy in Afghanistan under attack by Taliban

A complicated attack involving multiple gunmen and apparent suicide bombers was underway in the heart of the Afghan capital Tuesday morning, and one of the primary targets was the U.S. Embassy.

Mohammed Zahir, a police official in Kabul, told the Associated Press that a group of gunmen were firing from a tall office building under construction near the U.S. Embassy.

CBS News’ Fazul Rahim reports that sirens could be heard wailing from the embassy compound, and there were announcements carried over loudspeakers warning people to remain indoors.

U.S. Air Force photo by by Senior Airman Grovert Fuentes-Contreras

A military helicopter was seen landing briefly inside the compound and then departing, possibly carrying a number of VIPs to safety.

A source inside the U.S. Embassy tells Rahim at least 3 rockets hit inside the compound, but embassy officials said there were no injuries within the compound walls. A high ranking police official tells Rahim that five attackers armed with RPGs and machine guns – all of them wearing suicide vests – entered the building under construction and positioned themselves on the 10th floor.

Sediq Sediqqi, a senior police spokesman, tells CBS News two of the attackers were killed by police and one police officer was killed in the fighting. The operation continued to apprehend or kill two or three other militants who were still holed up in the building.

An Afghan politician tells Rahim that a bomb exploded near the headquarters of the national border police, and two rockets landed near the parliament building. Various other Afghan ministry buildings were also targeted in the seemingly well-coordinated attack.

At least two guards were wounded in the attack on the border police headquarters. “We are following the events closely; we have confidence in the Afghan authorities’ ability to deal with this situation,” NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in Brussels.

Our insurgents attacked in Kabul city,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told CNN. “Their target is the U.S. Embassy, governmental organizations and other foreign organizations.”

Militants opened fire near the U.S. Embassy and NATO’s International Security Assistance Force headquarters Tuesday after they stormed into a nearby abandoned building, U.S., NATO and Afghan officials said.

Jeremy Kelly, in Kabul, writes that police claim two of the attackers have been killed:

Kabul Police Chief Mohammad Ayub Salangi tells Radio Television Afghanistan that two attackers have been killed. Two still remain but are surrounded by police. Says one Afghan policeman killed, another wounded. Three civilians wounded. Says totals are not definitive.

The US embassy has released a short statement on the attack:

The US embassy can confirm an attack has occurred in the area of the US embassy, including RPG and small arms fire. We can confirm there are no casualties at this time among Embassy personnel.

At least six explosions have been heard according to Reuters, which quotes the Taliban as saying attackers are armed with rocket-propelled grenades and suicide vests

Mohammad Zahir, head of Kabul’s criminal investigation unit told Reuters:

There are five attackers involved but I can not give you more details because the operation is ongoing.

Jeremy Kelly, in Kabul, writes:

Explosions and gunfire rattled Kabul this morning after militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades and suicide vests attacked government buildings, the US embassy, and Nato’s main military base in the Afghan capital.

Witnesses said that some of the attackers were firing from positions in a tall, half-complete building behind the embassy.

A series of explosions could be heard in the affluent Wazir Akbar Khan area, where many embassies and foreign aid agencies reside.

A Taliban spokesman said several attackers with rocket-propelled grenades, AK-47s and suicide vests had taken up positions to attack government buildings.

“The primary targets of the attackers are the intelligence agency building and a ministry,” Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters by phone.

At least six loud explosions were heard, and the headquarters of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force was also reported to have come under attack.

Television pictures from near the attack showed a burned out minivan, a bicycle lying in the middle of the street and people running away.

Police and other security officials blocked roads around the US embassy and other diplomatic missions. “There are several armed attackers in Abdul Haq Square,” Mohammad Zahir, head of Kabul’s Crime Investigation Unit told the Associated Press.

At least four civilians have been wounded, according to Nadira Hayat Burhani, the deputy head of the health ministry. BBC correspondent Quentin Somerville tweeted that a rocket had landed 100 metres from the BBC office in Wazir Akbar Khan that could have been shot over the embassy.

He said US marines were on the roof of the embassy and sirens could be heard coming from ISAF.

The city has been on a heightened security alert in recent weeks following a series of attacks including one on the British Council last month.

Violence in Afghanistan is at its worst since US-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban government in late 2001, with high levels of foreign troop deaths and record civilian casualties.

Sources:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/blog/2011/sep/13/us-embassy-under-attack

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/09/13/501364/main20105249.shtml

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