Afghan security forces on Wednesday raided the Kabul hideout of Taliban militants behind an attack on Aghan President Hamid Karzai, sparking a battle that left seven people dead, including a woman and child.
Two rebels and three government agents were also among the dead after fierce clashes involving rockets and machine-guns raged for around 10 hours at a “safe house” in the west of the capital, the country’s spy chief said.
Later a NATO soldier was killed and three others hurt in a roadside bomb southeast of Kabul.
The Taliban confirmed the deaths of the two insurgents and the woman and the child, adding that both the dead men took part in an attack on a military parade at the weekend which was attended by Karzai and foreign diplomats.
Spy chief Amrullah Saleh said the “very sophisticated terrorist cell” had a direct link to Sunday’s Karzai attack, with one of the dead rebels having bought and moved weapons to the hotel where the attack was launched.
Saleh said his men used heavy weapons after the rebels killed the child because it was screaming. The soldiers then laid waste to the building after the three agents were killed while trying to go in and arrest the militants.
The woman was not an Afghan and had come to the country to carry out a suicide attack, he said.
The spy chief said they had evidence that the “terrorists” received orders for the attack on Karzai from sources in Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt and were receiving orders from there up to the very last minute.
“There were telephone numbers, exchange of messages and proof that they were receiving orders from across our borders. Whether they were receiving these guidance ordered by government of Pakistan or not, we have no proof,” he said.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that two rebels named Attah Mohammad and Mirwais were killed in the operation, along with Mohammad’s wife and baby daughter.
“They had planned and executed Sunday’s attack on the military parade and had managed to escape after the attack while three of their friends were killed that day,” Mujahid said by telephone.
The Taliban spokesman said another rebel had escaped Wednesday’s government raid on a house in the Guzargah suburb in the Afghan capital.
A photographer saw intelligence agents drive three men away in handcuffs as the gunfire and explosions continued earlier in the day. The fighting died off around lunchtime.
Security forces also carried out raids on two other militant hideouts in the capital, defense minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said. Six suspects were arrested in one in northeast Kabul and another operation was ongoing in the east.
Wardak said that a suspect arrested at the scene of Sunday’s attack gave information about the infiltration of “terrorist” cells into Afghan security agencies.
Karzai was unharmed in Sunday’s brazen attack on a parade marking 16 years since the fall of the last communist government, but a tribal chief was killed in the attack and a parliamentarian died of bullet wounds hours later. A 10-year-old boy was killed in the return fire, as were three militants.
Afghan Interior Minister Zarar Ahmad Muqbil said the three hideouts raided Wednesday were also linked to an attack on Kabul’s five-star Serena Hotel on Jan. 14 in which eight people died, including three foreigners.
Also on Wednesday a Czech soldier in the NATO force was killed and three of his compatriots injured when a bomb hit their vehicle in Logar Province, said Vlastimil Picek, the commander-in-chief of the Czech army.