Taliban assault ministries in Kabul

The Taliban launched a coordinated assault on two Afghan ministries and a prison headquarters in the capital of Kabul, resulting in 19 people killed and more than 50 wounded. The attack took place one week after Afghan security forces broke up a large terrorist network in the city.

The assault consisted of three teams of suicide bombers and gunmen who fanned out in the early morning to attack the Justice and Education ministries in the heart of the city, as well as at an office of the Prisons Department on the edge of the city.

The opening salvo took place at the Justice Ministry, where the heaviest fighting occurred. A suicide bomber detonated at the main gate, allowing three other attackers armed with AK-47s and hand grenades to enter the compound and the ministry building. Gunfights broke out as the attackers battled security guards in the hallways.

The Justice minister was trapped in the building as the battle raged, while other employees scrambled to leave. By the afternoon, the gunmen were killed and their suicide vests were disabled.

The next attack took place at the Education Ministry, however this attack failed. Security forces gunned down the suicide bomber outside the ministry compound.

The third attack took place at the offices of the Prisons Directorate, which is part of the Justice Ministry. Three suicide bombers attacked the office, two managed to detonate their vests, while a third is said to have escaped.

The Taliban took credit for the attacks. “We have warned the Afghan government to stop torturing our prisoners,” Zabiullah Mujaheed, Taliban spokesman told The Associated Press. “Today we attacked Justice Ministry compounds.”

Just eight days ago, the Afghan National Directorate of Security broke up a cell operating inside of Kabul. The seventeen men detained in the operation belonged to the Pakistan-based Haqqani Network and the Harkat ul-Mujahideen.

This cell is believed to be behind the assault on the Serena Hotel in January 2008, the assassination attempt on President Karzai at a ceremony in April 2008, the deadly suicide attack on the Indian embassy in July 2008, and a number of other attacks. The suicide attack on the Indian embassy has been traced back to Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence agency, which has supported the Taliban and various Kashmiri terror groups such as the Harkat ul-Mujahideen.

Today’s assault in Kabul is similar to the assault on the Serena Hotel. In that attack gunmen wearing suicide vests breached the front gate with a suicide attack and then entered the hotel and began shooting civilians.

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Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracy and the Editor of The Long War Journal.

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