Taliban militants strike at government buildings in Kabul


Kabul : An unknown number of Taliban militants Monday occupied a building in central Kabul close to the presidential palace, and gunshots and explosions were heard from the area, police and witnesses said.

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A suicide bomber targeted a building near the foreign ministry, killing and wounding several people, Tolo, a private television channel said.

A fierce gunbattle continued to rage in central Kabul, which residents fled.

NATO said in a statement that it was assisting Afghan forces to contain the militants, and NATO helicopters were hovering over the neighbourhood where the fighting was taking place.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said by phone from an undisclosed location that as many as 20 Taliban fighters, including suicide bombers, had entered the city to target government buildings, including the presidential palace.

The militants fired at the southern gate of the palace and at the finance and justice ministries from the Foreshgah Buzerg Afghan shopping complex, where they had taken up their positions, a police official in the area said.

“Police, army forces and intelligence forces are preparing to raid the building,” he said.

At least one rocket also hit the garden of the Serena Hotel, the only five-star hotel in Kabul, one of its foreign guests said.

He said they were whisked off to the basement for their safety at the hotel that is adjacent to the Taliban-occupied building.

NATO forces were “working closely with our Afghan partners to aggressively contain the situation during which several small explosions were reported near the Feroshgah e Afghan Shopping Center and the Serena Hotel”, NATO said in a statement.

“Insurgents also used small-arms fire in these attacks,” it said.

There were no immediate official reports of casualties.