Hundreds flee the Mujahidin Parade ceremony in Kabul shortly after the Taliban attack.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai escaped a barrage of automatic gunfire and mortar shells fired on a ceremony he attended in Kabul. State-run television captured the pandemonium showing hundreds of visiting dignitaries, soldiers, and journalists running for cover after the gun fire began. In all, 11 people suffered serious wounds, including two military policemen. A local Shiite cleric and small child died in the attack.
Two parliamentarians seated 65-feet from Karzai’s position slumped over in their chairs after being hit in the back by gunfire. The two wounded parliamentarians have been identified as Muhammad Daud Zazai and Fazel Rahman Samkanai, both legislators from Paktia province, according to a fellow parliamentarian who spoke to the New York Times. Fazel Rahman Samkanai has reportedly died from the gunshot wound to his stomach, according to the Health Minister Mohammad Amin Fatimie.
President Karzai fled the ceremony surrounded by bodyguards who ushered him down a back entrance and into one of four armored Land Cruisers. Both the British and American ambassadors also escaped the attack unhurt. President Karzai appeared on state television within the hour and urged calm among residents. “The enemy of Afghanistan, the enemy of the security and development of Afghanistan, tried to disrupt the celebration and tried to create fear,” he said. “Fortunately, the Afghan security forces surrounded them and some of the suspects were arrested, and, thank God, now everything is all right and the people of Afghanistan should be calm and confident.”
Hundreds gathered at the ceremony to mark the anniversary of the Afghan resistance’s victory over the Soviet occupation of the 1980s, known as Mujahideen Day, a national holiday. Although security was much tighter this year than last, six gunmen were able to occupy the rooftop of a three-story hotel only a few hundred yards from the ceremony. The security breach defied an intense 48-hour security crackdown conducted by the entire Kabul police force and elements of the Afghan National Army stationed throughout the capital who searched cars, residents, and buildings.
The attack began near the end of a 21-gun salute during a live band’s performance of the national anthem. Automatic gunfire peppered the ceremony’s bleachers and ricochets struck the main podium. Taliban attackers fired at least two BM-12 rocket shells, one of which slammed into the Eid Gah Mosque, opposite of President Karzai’s seat.
Afghan security personnel stormed the location of the gunmen and arrested nine men. Witnesses also claim three armed men were shot and killed during the raid. At least 100 people have been rounded up for questioning, according the head of Afghan intelligence. Taliban spokesman Zabibullah Mujahid called several media outlets claiming responsibility for the attack. “We fired rockets at the scene of the celebration. We had placed six personnel in the area,” he said from an undisclosed location. “Our aim was not to directly hit someone. We just wanted to show to the world that we can attack anywhere.”
A day before the attack, US and Afghan forces raided an insurgent hideout in neighboring Kapisa province targeting a Taliban commander thought to have been planning an attack on Sunday’s ceremony. Several insurgents were killed during the assault and some civilians suffered injuries, according to a US military statement. A suicide-bomb vest was confiscated from the insurgent compound following the raid.
The attack in Kabul is the most brazen assault since a small band of Taliban terrorists raided the heavily secured Serena hotel in mid-January. A Norwegian journalist, an American aid worker, and at least five security guards were killed in that suicide bomb assault. The last major attack in Kabul occurred last month when a suicide car bomber struck a Coalition convoy near Kabul’s international airport. Six people died in the blast and 15 others were wounded from the enormous explosion. Four US soldiers suffered minor cuts and bruises.