A group of Taliban suicide attackers has launched a dramatic attack near the presidential palace and CIA offices at the heart of Kabul’s fortified diplomatic zone.
The attack kicked off just as journalists were gathering for security checks ahead of a presidential news conference. They reported seeing attackers exchange fire with guards at the presidential and intelligence agency headquarters.
The president himself never appeared to be in danger, locked away behind several more walls inside the heavily fortified palace itself. One source who was inside the complex, which has outer walls several dozen metres thick in places, said the fighting never approached the inner area.
“We can hear the attack but it seems to be a little distance away,” said the source, who asked not to be named as his job does not allow him to speak to the media.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, the first in the capital since they unveiled an office in Qatar and plans for peace talks.
“At 6.30 this morning at the gate of the Arg [presidential palace], the site of the ministry of defence and the Ariana hotel [used as a CIA headquarters] several suicide attacks started,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a text message.
There were more than half a dozen large explosions that were heard across the city and sent smoke billowing into the sky, and the attackers exchanged gunfire with security forces for about 90 minutes.
The city police chief, General Ayoub Salangi, said all the attackers had been killed by around 8am and life in the city was slipping back into normal routines, although embassies and the Nato coalition remained locked down.
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk
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