Minggu, 15 April 2012

Taliban attacks Kabul - spring offensive has been launched !

Guardian liveblog summary....

3.18pm: This just in from our correspondent Jon Boone who says that this the Taliban's largest coordinated attack on the capital in 11 years:

The attacks all started at around 2pm local time, with gun and rocket attacks on high profile buildings in Kabul, including the British embassy and several other foreign missions, parliament and Afghan government ministries.
Simultaneously strikes were launched in the provinces of Logar and Paktia, and on the airport in the critical eastern trading city of Jalalabad.
The attacks in Kabul resembled the audacious assault in September last year when gunmen stormed an abandoned, half-built tower from where they fired rockets on to the US Embassy, prompting a 20 hour siege by Afghan special forces.
Only this time the scale of the attack in the capital alone was even greater.
At least seven sites across the heavily guarded city were attacked, raising worrying questions about the Taliban's apparently undimmed ability to wreak havoc despite intense US efforts to degrade them on the battlefield.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said the attacks proved the movement's strength.
"The puppet government and its foreign backers claimed the Taliban would not be able to launch a spring offensive, but today's attacks were the start of our spring offensive." He said.
In the south-west of the city gunmen managed to climb a five storey building site from where they fired on the Afghan parliament, the Commerce Ministry and the Russian Embassy.
Some members of parliament, which is full of battle hardened former mujahideen commanders who fought a guerrilla campaign against Soviet occupying forces in the 1980s, grabbed weapons and joined parliamentary guards to try and repel the attack...
A high profile Afghan MP called Wazhma Frogh who was caught up in the attacks near the British Embassy gave a scathing verdict of the response of police.
"I was nearly shot in the back as I was walking down the street, not by a terrorist but by the Afghan police who were just shooting at everything," she said. "They had no idea where they were firing."
She said the attacks cast doubt on NATO's "transition" plan that aims to hand over full responsibility for security to the Afghan government by the end of 2014,
"This shows just how ridiculous the transition policy is. I've never seen a street battle before, but what I saw today was the fragility of these police officers. It really shows how poor police training has been."

Here is an lunchtime summary on a eventful day in Afghanistan, where militants are carrying out co-ordinated attacks on Kabul and other targets in the country.
• A Taliban spokesman said fighters have attacked embassies in the diplomatic enclave, Nato's HQ and the parliament building in the west of the capital. Multiple blasts and gunfire have been heard across Kabul.
• There have also been attacks the in Logar and Paktia provinces and reports of suicide attacks in Jalalabad, according to the Taliban.
• Nato said it had reports of attacks in seven locations in Kabul but there were no reports as yet of any casualties.
• The British embassy has been targetted, with two rockets hitting a guard tower. Witnesses told Reuters that a rocket-propelled grenade was fired into a house used by British diplomats.
There have been reports that nearly 400 prisoners escaped from a jail in northwest Pakistan in the early hours of Sunday morning after it was attacked by militants armed with guns and rocket propelled grenades, according to The News.
Some who fled the jail in the town of Bannu, near unruly ethnic Pashtun tribal areas close to the Afghan border, were militants, an intelligence official said.
According to Bannu Jail Superintendent around 500 militants attacked the prison in the wee hours.
One inmate who escaped was on death row for involvement in an attempt to assassinate former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, a second police official said.

Pakistan's al Qaeda-linked Taliban movement, which has close links to al Qaeda, said its fighters mounted the assault, which triggered clashes. Several people were wounded.
"We have freed hundreds of our comrades in Bannu in this attack. Several of our people have reached their destinations, others are on their way," a Taliban spokesman said.
The claim could not be immediately verified.
A police official identified one of the inmates who escaped as a "dangerous prisoner" named Adnan Rasheed who took part in one of the attempts to kill Musharraf.
"He was a mastermind in (one of the attacks) on Musharraf. These people came for him and took another 383 people too," the official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
CNN are reporting that four suicide bombers also tried to attack Jalalabad airfield where United States troops are based.
One of the attackers blew himself up, while police intercepted the other three, airfield commander Jahan Ngir said.

The Telegraph live blogs items of interest...

12.55 Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tells AFP:
QuoteThe Kabul administration and the invading forces had said some time ago that the Taliban will not be able to launch a spring offensive. Today's attacks were the start of our spring offensive.
12.50 The Afghan Taliban says coordinated attacks in several provinces in Afghanistan, including multiple assaults on Western embassies andNATO headquarters in Kabul, are the start of an insurgent spring offensive.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tells Reuters:
QuoteThese attacks are the beginning of the spring offensive and we had planned them for months.
12.35 Germany's embassy in Kabul was damaged but no one is believed to be injured, the foreign ministry said after explosions and gunfire rocked the diplomatic quarter of the Afghan capital.
A spokeswoman told AFP that the "grounds of the German embassy" had sustained damage but that "as far as we know (there have been) no injuries."
12.25 US embassy in Kabul "in lockdown" after surrounding area targeted in the multiple attacks on the diplomatic districts of the Afghan capital but no staff members have been injured.
The embassy said in a text message statement to Reuters:
QuoteAttacks are ongoing in the vicinity of the US embassy in Kabul. Avoid the area. Shelter in place. The US embassy is currently in lockdown ... all compound personnel are accounted for and safe.
12.05 The Daily Telegraph's Ben Farmer has tweeted this from Kabul:
11.50 At least one attacker killed as fighting rages, Kabul police chiefMohammad Ayoubi Salangi tells AFP.
QuoteNear the parliament, the first floor of a neighbouring building has been taken by police and one terrorist is dead
In two other areas of the city militants have taken positions in tall buildings and "are firing", he says.
11.40 Taliban says it and other militant groups are behind a coordinated assault in Kabul which included attacks on British and German embassies in the heavily-guarded diplomatic district, reports Reuters.
Armed Afghan police take up positions on the streets of Kabul after gunmen launched multiple attacks in the Afghan capital (Reuters)
11.45 The Daily Telegraph's Ben Farmer tweets from Kabul:
11.15 AP reports that attacks appear to represent coordinated assault by militants on three neighbourhoods frequented by Afghan government officials and their international allies.
11.10 Reports say rockets fired at parliament building and at theRussian embassy. Insurgents storm Star Hotel near presidential palace and Iranian embassy.
11.00 Reports that several attackers tried to enter the Afghan parliament in Kabul but were engaged by security forces and driven back.
10.30 Loud explosions and automatic gunfire heard in central Kabul area near US and British embassies.

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