Seven heavily armed Taliban fighters launched a pre-dawn attack near Afghanistan’s main airport yesterday, apparently targeting NATO’s airport headquarters with rocket-propelled grenades, heavy machine guns and at least one large bomb. Two Afghan civilians were wounded and all the attackers were killed after an hours-long battle.
It was one of three attacks on state facilities in the morning by insurgents around the country, and the third time in a month that insurgents have launched a major attack seeking high-profile targets in and around Kabul. It appears to be part of an effort to rattle public confidence as Afghan security forces take over most responsibility for protecting the country ahead of the withdrawal of foreign troops next year.
In addition to the airport attack, six militants wearing suicide bomb vests tried to storm the provincial council building in the capital of Zabul Province, while three attempted to attack a district police headquarters near the capital. Elsewhere, a roadside bomb killed a Polish soldier in the NATO force.
Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi said that in Zabul, they managed to wound 18 people, including three police officers, when they detonated a car bomb outside the building in the city of Qalat, but security forces shot and killed them before they managed to enter.
On the outskirts of Kabul, police killed one attacker and arrested two others who tried to storm the headquarters building in Surobi District.
The attack against the capital’s airport appeared aimed at creating a sense of insecurity among residents of the capital and sowing panic in the population. The insurgents did not get close enough to attack aircraft and were not near the runway’s flight path.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said his government would not be deterred by the attacks.
“These cowardly terrorist attacks on the Afghan people cannot change the chosen path of the Afghan people toward progress, development, peace and elections,” Karzai said, referring to next spring’s poll to elect a new head of state.
Karzai was not in Kabul during the attack, but was visiting the Gulf state of Qatar, where he was discussing his country’s stalled peace process and the possible opening of a Taliban office in Doha.
The Kabul airport itself was not damaged and reopened shortly after the fighting was over, airport chief Yaqub Rassuli said.
“There was no damage to the runway. Some shrapnel fell nearby, but we have cleared it away,” Rassuli said.