At least four Afghan policemen and two Spaniards were killed in an hours-long Taliban siege near the Spanish embassy in Kabul’s diplomatic quarter, the latest high-profile insurgent attack, which ended early yesterday.
Multiple blasts and gunfire rocked the high-security zone after the raid began on Friday evening, hours after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani voiced optimism that a peace process with the Taliban would resume within weeks.
“Four Afghan policemen, two foreign nationals and four attackers were killed in the terrorist attack in Kabul,” said Fraidoon Obaidi, the head of Kabul’s Criminal Investigation Department.
The government in Madrid confirmed that the two foreigners were Spanish policemen killed during the assault, which began when a car bomb was detonated during rush hour on Friday evening.
The powerful blast, which sent a thick plume of smoke into the sky, was followed by multiple explosions through the night along with sporadic bursts of gunfire.
Security men near the embassy ducked from gunshots as they hauled away a limp body and two wounded men through the dark to a waiting ambulance — one bleeding from the head, the other a policeman with a gunshot wound to one of his legs — a photographer said.
Afghan officials said the last of the four assailants was killed in the early hours of yesterday.
The attack followed a deadly 27-hour Taliban siege of Kandahar airport this week as the militants ramp up attacks despite the onset of the harsh winter season, when fighting usually calms down.
The Taliban also claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack, saying the target was a foreign guest house.
The Spanish embassy was earlier reported to be the target of the attack, but Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy clarified that the assault was nearby and not on the compound.
“It was an attack against some guesthouses very near the embassy,” Rajoy said, adding that all embassy staff had been evacuated as Afghan special forces cordoned off the area in Sherpur district in central Kabul.
An estimated 150,000 people were trapped in the city by the most prolonged period of urban fighting in Afghanistan since the US-led campaign against the Taliban in 2001.
About 13,000 families fled, adding to the hundreds of thousands already displaced by violence and lack of security, UNAMA said.
In related news, A UN report said that at least 848 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded following a Taliban attack on the northern city of Kunduz in September.
The 289 dead and 559 injured included at least 30 killed and 37 injured in a US airstrike on a hospital run by doctors Without Borders, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a report.
It said the figures were likely to rise as further information became available, adding that unstable security meant its officials had been unable to conduct detailed investigations in Kunduz.
Apart from the losses in the airstrike on Oct. 3, it said most casualties had been caused from small-arms fire or explosives during heavy fighting in residential areas.
“In most of these cases, UNAMA could not attribute the casualties to a specific party to the conflict,” it said, although it also detailed reports of deliberate killings by the Taliban of civilians including people associated with the government.
It also joined calls for an independent investigation into the attack on the hospital, which it said could amount to a war crime if it were proved to be deliberate.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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