47 killed in Kabul siege

KABUL, Apr 16:
Afghan forces today regained control over parts of the capital Kabul after killing all the 36 Taliban militants – some wearing burqas – who unleashed the biggest wave of coordinated suicide attacks in a decade.
The brazen 18-hour attack on the city was brought to an end this morning after militants holed up in two buildings near Parliament were killed by heavy gunfire by Afghan security forces and air assaults from NATO helicopters.
“A total of 47 people were killed in the attacks which also left 65 wounded,” Interior Minister Bismillah Mohammadi told reporters here.
He said the figure included 36 Taliban militants, eight Afghan security guards and three civilians.
“Some of the Taliban suicide bombers came wearing burqas and carrying flowers to their intended targets which included a number of embassies and the Parliament building, before casting it off to unleash their lethal weaponry,” he said.
For the first time, Afghan security forces took the lead in beating back the Taliban assault, a NATO spokesman said, adding that their helicopters had provided air support to obliterate some of the militant held areas.
The response of the Afghan security forces was hailed by top US commander Gen John Allen and the US ambassador to the country Ryan Crocker.
The attacks raised fears over the precarious security situation in the country as NATO prepares to withdraw the bulk of 130,000 troops from the war-torn country by the end of 2014 and hand over responsibility to the Afghan army.
The Afghan forces flushed out insurgents from the central diplomatic area and killed the last gunman who was fighting near Parliament in the west of the city, a senior police official said.
Earlier today, residents of Kabul woke up to a second day of explosions and the crackle of gunfire as Afghan forces hit the two spots where militants were holed up overnight with heavy guns to bring an end to multiple sieges clearly designed to undermine confidence in NATO and Afghan military gains.
After the last of the militants was smoked out, silence fell on the city whose roads were littered with bullet shells.
“The battle is over in Kabul… All the three places in Kabul were cleared and all the militants were killed,” Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Siddiq Seddiqi told.
“The fighting ended at 7:20 Kabul time (this morning) and all the roads are open now,” he said.
Kabul and three other Afghan cities were hit by a wave of suicide attacks yesterday, with embassies and NATO bases coming under fire in what Taliban said was the start of their “spring offensive.”
The US, British, German and Japanese embassy compounds also came under fire in the first major attack on the city in more than six months, but no Indian target was attacked.
All the staff in the missions were reportedly safe.
As in the earlier attack Taliban militants took over half built buildings and used them to fire down on nearby embassies and military bases.
They attacked Kabul Star Hotel in Wazir Akbar Khan area of the capital and some tried to storm the Parliament firing rockets but were engaged by security forces and driven back.
The Parliament was in session and some MPs joined security forces in fighting them.
The militants also struck at cities in three provinces – an airport in Jalalabad, Logar and Paktia.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed claimed responsibility for the attacks and warned that the strikes were the beginning of the “spring offensive”.
Afghan officials said they have also arrested two would-be suicide bombers, who intended to kill the second Vice-President, Mohamed Karim Khalili. (PTI)