Gunfire, explosions rock Afghan capital
Posted at 04/15/2012 6:34 PM | Updated as of 04/16/2012 8:52 AM
KABUL (UPDATED) - Suicide bombers struck across Afghanistan in coordinated attacks Sunday, with explosions and gunfire rocking the diplomatic enclave in the capital as militants took over a hotel and tried to enter parliament.
Taliban insurgents claimed the attacks in Kabul with a spokesman saying by mobile phone text message that "a lot of suicide bombers" were involved.
Outside the capital, attackers also targeted government buildings in Logar province, the airport in Jalalabad, and a police facility in the town of Gardez in Paktia province.
Witnesses said suicide bombers had taken over the newly-built Kabul Star hotel, which was reportedly on fire in an area which includes a major US military base, the United Nations office and the presidential palace.
The area was sealed off by security forces.
Several other attackers tried to enter the Afghan parliament but were engaged by security forces and driven back, an official said.
They had taken cover in a building near the parliament and fighting was ongoing, parliamentary media officer Qudratullah Jawid told AFP.
Kabul police chief Mohammad Ayoubi Salangi told AFP at least one attacker had been killed as fighting raged in several locations in the capital.
"Near the parliament, the first floor of a neighboring building has been taken by police and one terrorist is dead," he said.
In two other areas of the city militants had taken positions in tall buildings and "are firing", he said.
A police spokesman said the areas under attack were the diplomatic enclave of Wazir Akbar Khan in the centre, parliament in the west and District Nine in the south.
South of Kabul in Logar province, several suicide attackers entered government buildings, including the offices of the provincial governor, police headquarters and a US base, deputy provincial police chief, Raees Khan told AFP.
In eastern Afghanistan two suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of Jalalabad airport, wounding several people, General Jahangir Azimi, the airport's head of police said.
In Gardez, also in the east, multiple Taliban gunmen -- believed to be armed with suicide vests -- launched an attack on a police training centre, Rohullah Samoon the provincial spokesman told AFP.
They occupied a building overseeing the facility and opened fire with machine-guns, he said, wounding four civilians.
As the Kabul attacks began, several large explosions and bursts of gunfire were heard near the United States embassy.
The embassy sounded alarms and warned staff to take cover, AFP reporters heard from their office near the embassy in the Wazir Akbar Khan area, which houses many diplomatic missions.
The incidents come as Taliban militants step up their attacks as part of their annual spring offensive, heralding the so-called "fighting season".
In September last year Taliban attacks targeting locations including the US embassy and headquarters of foreign troops in Kabul killed at least 14 during a 19-hour siege.
And in August, nine people, including a New Zealand special forces soldier, were killed when suicide bombers attacked the British Council cultural centre.
NATO has about 130,000 troops supporting the government of President Hamid Karzai against the Taliban insurgency, but they will pull out by the end of 2014, handing control of security to Afghan forces.