At least 26 killed in attacks on Kabul government

February 12th, 2009 - 1:19 am ICT by IANS  

TalibanKabul, Feb 11 (DPA) At least 26 people were killed Wednesday in Kabul in attacks claimed by the Taliban on three Afghan government buildings, according to the public health ministry.
A further 57 people were also injured in the attacks - one day ahead of a visit by US special envoy Richard Holbrooke, according to Abdullah Fahim, spokesman for the Afghan public heath ministry.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, speaking from an undisclosed location, claimed the attacks.

Fahim said most of the victims in the attacks which targeted the justice and education ministries plus the prison authority, were civilians.

Eight attackers were also killed, the interior ministry said.

“Today our beautiful city and our oppressed people are again the victims for the terrorist attacks,” Interior Minister Hanif Atmar told a press conference in Kabul.

Atmar gave a slightly lower death toll of 20, comprising 11 civilians, seven police officers and two intelligence service employees.

The first attack took place in the justice ministry, which is located in the heart of the capital near the south gate of the presidential palace.

A group of five bombers equipped with machine guns stormed the ministry. The first bomber was shot dead by a guard but four others managed to enter the building, opening fire on workers “indiscriminately”, according to Atmar.

Amerullah Saleh, head of the national directorate of security, said that the bombers also threw hand grenades inside the building before being killed by security forces during the three-hour-standoff.

The bombers occupied the second floor and basement of the building, forcing the terrified employees to jump from the third and fourth floors. Some of the employees were also rescued from the building by security forces using ladders.

The attackers managed to take hostage two employees, who were later killed in the crossfire between the attackers and security personnel, Saleh said.

“I saw two of my colleagues shot in front of my eyes, then I ran to third floor,” Abdul Saboor, a ministry employee said. He said he was later evacuated from the building by security forces.

In a second attack, a bomber set off an explosion at the gate of the prisons authority, while an accomplice entered the building.

The blasts killed several people including six police officers.

Meanwhile, police shot dead another bomber who tried to enter the education ministry, police and witnesses said.

Taliban spokesman Mujahid claimed that dozens of the Afghan security forces were killed in the attacks, but could not give an exact number. He also said that 16 Taliban militants had been involved in the attacks.

Saleh said that the attack was orchestrated from Pakistan.

“As they were entering the Ministry of Justice and before starting their indiscriminate killing of the civilians there, they sent three messages to Pakistan, calling for the blessing of their mastermind,” Saleh said.

Afghan officials have repeatedly said in the past that the Taliban-led insurgents get training and equipment from leaders hiding in tribal areas of Pakistan, close to porous Afghan border.

The attack came as the US government plans to increase the number of US forces in the country.

Up to 30,000 additional US soldiers are expected to be sent to Afghanistan, as President Barak Obama switches US attention from Iraq to Afghanistan.

Several thousand of the troops would be stationed around Kabul to protect the Western-backed Afghan capital.

Kabul has witnessed several suicide attacks since the ouster of the Taliban regime in late 2001.

Suicide and roadside bombings are common tactics for Taliban militants, who have waged a bloody insurgency since their ousting as Afghan government in 2001.

The rebel group conducted more than 120 suicide bombings in 2008.

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