The Taliban carried out a daylight terror assault today on government centers and civilian targets in the Afghanistan capital of Kabul, creating panic and sparking gun battles in the heart of the city.
Taliban fighters wearing suicide vests and carrying assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades launched an attack outside a central square where the presidential palace, the Justice Ministry, and the Central Bank are located. Fighting spread to the Serena Hotel, the Grand Afghan shopping center, and a movie theater.
At least two suicide bombers detonated during the battle, and another one drove an ambulance packed with explosives into the square.
Afghan commandos, soldiers, and police were rushed to the scene to battle the Taliban assault team. Fighting raged at the shopping center and movie center for almost six hours after the attack began.
Seven Taliban fighters, three soldiers, and two civilians were killed in the fighting.
The Taliban took credit for the assault, in a statement released on the group’s website, the Voice of Jihad. Spokesman Zabihllah Mujaid claimed that 20 Taliban fighters carried out the attack and said more than two dozen members of the Afghan security forces were killed in fighting throughout the city. The Afghan Taliban routinely inflate casualties in their statements.
The attack took place as President Karzai is preparing to offer the Taliban an amnesty. The Taliban have said repeatedly that they would not accept a negotiated settlement, and they insist that NATO forces leave Afghanistan before any talks can take place.
Today’s attack closely follows the pattern of a series of Taliban and Haqqani network strikes in Afghanistan’s cities since January 2008. The Taliban have been targeting ministry buildings, security installations, and the Indian Embassy.
Similar attacks have taken place in Pakistan’s major cities, as well as in Mumbai, India. The Mumbai attack was the most deadly, with more than 170 people killed as the Lashkar-e-Taiba assault teams were able to shut down the city for more than 60 hours.
List of major complex and suicide attacks in Afghanistan since January 2008:
Jan. 18, 2010: A Taliban assault team struck at the presidential palace, the Justice Ministry, and the Central Bank. Seven Taliban fighters, three policemen, and two civilians were killed.
Oct. 24, 2009: An al Qaeda and Haqqani Network suicide assault team killed five foreign UN workers and three Afghans in an attack on a UN guesthouse in Kabul.
Oct. 8, 2009: A Taliban suicide bomber killed 17 civilans and wounded more than 80 in an attack outside the Indian embassy in Kabul.
Sept. 2, 2009: A Taliban suicide bomber assassinated the deputy chief of Afghanistan’s intelligence service and the leader of the provincial council during an attack at a mosque in Laghman province. The two Afghan leaders were among 23 people killed in the deadly attack.
July 24, 2009: Police in Khost City killed seven Taliban fighters as they attempted to assault the provincial police headquarters and a bank.
July 21, 2009: Suicide bombers armed with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles attacked government installations and a US base in the cities of Gardez and Jalalabad. Eight Taliban fighters and six Afghan security personnel were reported killed in the failed attacks.
May 12, 2009: The Taliban launched a multi-pronged suicide attack against government and security installations in Khost province, a stronghold of the deadly Haqqani Network. Eleven Taliban fighters and nine civilians were killed in the day-long assault.
April 1, 2009: Four Taliban suicide bombers disguised as Afghan soldiers attempted to kill the Kandahar provincial council after entering the compound. Security forces foiled the attack but seven civilians and six policemen were killed during the fighting.
March 30, 2009: A suicide bomber wearing a police uniform penetrated security at a police compound in Kandahar’s Andar district and killed five policemen and four civilians after detonating his vest.
Feb. 11, 2009 The Taliban conducted a multi-pronged assault on two Afghan ministries and a prison headquarters in the capital of Kabul that resulted in 19 people killed and more than 50 wounded.
Feb. 2, 2009: A suicide bomber detonated his vest inside a training center for police reservists in the town of Tarin Kot in Uruzgan province. Twenty-one Afghan police were killed and seven more were wounded in the suicide attack.
Dec. 4, 2008: A three-man suicide team stormed the headquarters of Afghanistan’s intelligence service in Khost province. Six intelligence and police officials were killed and another seven were wounded.
Sept. 7, 2008: Two Taliban suicide bombers entered a police headquarters in Kandahar province and searched for a senior police general in charge of border security at the Spin Boldak crossing point. Six policemen were killed and 37 were wounded, including the general, in the bombings.
Sept. 6, 2008: A Taliban suicide bomber penetrated a secure government building in the southwestern province of Nimroz and detonated his vest. The attack killed six people, including Nimroz province’s intelligence chief and his 20-year-old son.
July 7, 2009: A suicide car bomber hit the outside wall of the Indian embassy in a crowded neighborhood in Kabul on Monday, killing 54 people and wounding more than 140.
On April 27, 2008: A Taliban assault team attempted to assassinate President Karzai during a military parade outside Kabul. Two members of parliament were killed and 11 others were wounded during the barrage of automatic gunfire and mortar shells.
Jan. 14, 2008: A suicide assault team from the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network raided the heavily secured Serena Hotel. Terrorists wearing suicide vests breached the front gate with a suicide attack and then entered the hotel and began shooting civilians. A Norwegian journalist, an American aid worker, and at least five security guards were killed in the assault.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.