KABUL // The Taliban launched a series of coordinated attacks on as many as seven sites across the Afghan capital yesterday, targeting Nato bases, the parliament and western embassies.
Militants also launched near-simultaneous assaults in three other eastern cities. At least 11 police officers, five civilians and 19 insurgents were killed in the attacks.
The Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said scores of the group’s suicide bombers had carried out the strikes in the capital and in three other provinces – Paktia, Nangarhar and Logar.
The attacks were the most spectacular in the heavily guarded capital since September, and demonstrated the insurgents’ resolve heading into the spring fighting season, when warmer weather usually brings increased attacks.
The scale and scope of the violence also underscored the Afghan security forces’ struggles to protect even the heart of national power as the US-led international force speeds up the transfer of security responsibility before the end of the Nato mission in 2014.
The Kabul attack began yesterday afternoon with explosions in the neighbourhood of a Nato base and a number of embassies, including that of the US.
Gunfire erupted soon after, forcing people caught in the street to scramble for cover. More than 10 explosions rocked the city, and heavy gunfire crackled across the rooftops for hours as smoke rose over the skyline and sirens wailed.
Mr Mujahid said the attacks were targeting Nato headquarters, the British and German embassies, the Afghan parliament building, the Serena and Kabul Star hotels and sites along Darulaman Road, where the Russian embassy is.
He said the insurgents had planned the assault for two months to show the extent of their power after being called “weak” by Nato forces.
“We are strong and we can attack anywhere we want,” the Taliban spokesman said. The assault was in advance of the insurgency’s spring offensive, which will be announced soon.
The American Embassy said there were attacks “in the vicinity of the US Embassy”. The German foreign ministry said there was some damage to the grounds of the German embassy, but it did not appear that anyone had been hurt.
Militants holed up in a tall building still under construction were firing rockets in different directions. It was not immediately clear what they were targeting, but shots appeared to be directed at the British Embassy.
Across town, residents reported a blast near parliament as militants took over a nearby building and opened fire.
Mohammad Nahim Lalai Hamidzai, a member of parliament from Kandahar, fired on a building under construction where militants were hiding. “I shot up to 400 or 500 bullets from my Kalashnikov at the attackers,” Mr Hamidzai said. “They fired two rocket-propelled grenades at the parliament. The fight was around the parliament, the Russian embassy and Vice President Khalili’s house.”
Militants also launched mortars at international military bases on Jalalabad road on Kabul’s outskirts. A joint Greek-Turkish base came under heavy fire and forces were responding with machineguns.
A police officer said a suicide bomber had occupied a building near the bases and was shooting towards the Kabul Military Training Centre. At least five people were wounded in the violence across Kabul, said Kabir Amir, the chief of the city’s hospitals.
Sediq Sediqi, a spokesman for the interior ministry, said two suicide attackers were killed – one who was firing from a building under construction behind the Kabul Star Hotel and another in the fighting near parliament.