A series of attacks on government buildings in Afghanistan have killed at least 26 people and injured dozens. The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attacks. The incidents come a day before Richard Holbrooke, the new US special envoy, was scheduled to visit Kabul.
Afghan security forces trying to get inside the justice ministry in Kabul following the attack
The first attack targeted the justice ministry. A group of at least five bombers equipped with machine guns stormed the ministry, located in the centre of the capital Kabul. One of them reportedly detonated himself outside the building.
One of the staff members of the justice ministry shares his experience:
“I saw the attackers. They were dressed like Taliban fighters. They draped long shawls. They came with their Kalashnikovs and burst into the building of the ministry and opened fire on security guards.”
At nearly the same time, two suicide bombers targeted the prison authorities in the north of the city, killing six policemen.
“It was one of the deadliest attacks on the capital in recent years. So far the information we have gathered from hospitals show that at least 26 people have been killed and 55 are injured. And most of the victims were civilians," says Abdullah Fahim, the spokesperson of the health ministry.
Change in tactics
The incident sparked panic among residents and the security was beefed up across the city.
After three hours long operation and heavy exchanges of gunfire, the security forces killed the attackers. The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attacks. They said it was in response to treatment of their fellow Taliban members jailed in Afghan prisons.
Gen. Atiqullah Baryalai, a defence expert from Kabul, says the attacks show a change in the tactics of the Taliban fighters:
“These attacks have given a new dimension to the conflict in Afghanistan, as this time we saw a combination of suicide bombers and gunmen. It was similar to what happened in India’s city of Mumbai.”
Plans for more foreign troops
The incidents come at a time, when the security situation in the country has worsened tremendously. It also comes a day before Richard Holbrooke, the new US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan’s planned visit to Kabul.
The US President Barack Obama is likely to decide soon whether to double the number of US troops in Afghanistan fighting against the Taliban-led insurgency.
However defence expert Gen. Atiqullah Baryalai has his doubts about whether the increase in foreign troops would help. "With this latest attack the Taliban and their supporters want to show America that they can attack anywhere, anytime," he says.
Meanwhile the US's top military commander in Afghanistan David McKiernan has condemned the latest attacks, saying they have shown the ‘real’ face of the Taliban. German Foreign minister Frank Walter Steinmeier has also condemned them, as 'murderous attacks', pledging that Germany would continue to work for the creation of an 'Afghan state that guarantees the security and freedom of its citizens.'