Taliban Claim Responsibility for Major Attack in Afghan Capital
KABUL, Afghanistan – The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on the home of a senior military official in Kabul on Wednesday that left eight people dead, underlining the ability of the insurgents to strike in the heart of the Afghan capital as they continue their massive military campaign .
The raid began at around 8 p.m. on Tuesday with a car bomb that exploded outside the home of Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, the acting defense minister. For several hours afterwards, further explosions and sporadic gunfire could be heard in the center of town after gunmen stormed the building and security forces fought to rescue the 80 or so people. people trapped inside.
The complex attack – the largest the Taliban has carried out in the city in nearly a year – penetrated an area that is home to many senior Afghan officials and close to the heavily fortified Green Zone of Kabul. It comes as the insurgents push back the front lines of their military campaign from rural areas into the provincial capitals of southern and western Afghanistan.
A Taliban spokesman described the raid in Kabul as “the start of retaliatory attacks”, suggesting that insurgents plan to target Afghan military officials and the small contingent of foreign troops who remain in the country to protect diplomats and Kabul International Airport after the withdrawal of US forces.
The Taliban “will no longer remain indifferent” to these groups and “will oppose them with all force,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.
Minutes before Tuesday’s initial blast, Mohammad Azim Mohsini, an MP who is Mr. Mohammadi’s neighbor, left his home where dozens of people had gathered earlier that night for a prayer-to-mourn ceremony the death of his mother. After the explosion, an assailant entered his house, killing four people, while other assailants opened fire from outside, he said.
“A number of our civilian neighbors – including women, children and men – have also been killed and injured,” Mohsini said.
Two police officers as well as an Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation employee and his child were among the eight people killed in the raid, officials said. The defense minister survived the attack, but some of his security guards were among 20 people injured, he said in a video message posted on Twitter.
“I assure you all that such incidents will not have the slightest impact on our morale or our resolve to defend you and my homeland,” he said, addressing the Afghan public.
Yet the fact that the Taliban could attack the home of a senior military official in the middle of Kabul sent an alarming message to the country’s military leaders, whose forces have been defeated since international troops began withdrawing in May. and that the Taliban have launched a major military offensive.
In a serious escalation of its campaign, the group has in recent weeks besieged three provincial capitals – Herat in the west and Lashkar Gah and Kandahar in the south – after sweeping much of the country’s rural areas. Insurgents now control more than half of the country’s roughly 400 districts, according to some estimates.
As the assault unfolded on Tuesday, hundreds of Afghans flocked to the streets of Kabul chanting “Allahu akbar” or “God is great” to show their support for the Afghan security forces. As others joined in the chants on the roofs and windows, the resounding sound of their voices echoed throughout the city.
The day before in Herat, the capital of the province of the same name, residents also marched through the streets, shouting the phrase in defiance of the Taliban as they besieged the city.
But a sign of the conflict to come as the Taliban advance in modern urban areas, Mujahid on Wednesday called the protesters “slaves and secular Americans”.
Anyone who sided with the Afghan forces, he added, “will be considered for God’s sake.”
Najim Rahim, Sharif Hassan and Fatima Faizi contributed reports.
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