The Taliban carried out a daylight terror assault Jan. 18 on government centers and civilian targets in Kabul, creating panic and sparking gun battles in the heart of the city. Taliban fighters wearing suicide vests and carrying assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades launched an attack outside a central square where the presidential palace, Justice Ministry, and Central Bank are located. Fighting spread to the Serena Hotel, the Grand Afghan shopping center, and a movie theater.
At least two suicide bombers detonated during the battle, and another one drove an ambulance packed with explosives into the square. Afghan commandos, soldiers, and police were rushed to the scene to battle the Taliban assault team. Fighting raged at the shopping center and movie center for almost six hours after the attack began. Seven Taliban fighters, three soldiers, and two civilians were killed in the fighting.
The Taliban took credit for the assault, in a statement released on the group’s website, the Voice of Jihad. Spokesman Zabihllah Mujaid claimed that 20 Taliban fighters carried out the attack and said more than two dozen members of the Afghan security forces were killed in fighting throughout the city. The Afghan Taliban routinely inflate casualties in their statements.
The attack took place as President Karzai is preparing to offer the Taliban an amnesty. The Taliban have said repeatedly that they would not accept a negotiated settlement, and they insist that NATO forces leave Afghanistan before any talks can take place. (Long War Journal, Jan. 18)
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