Bamiyan Panorama

Bamiyan Panorama

Monday, June 24, 2013

Militants attack the Afghanistan Presidential Palace

Militants have attacked the presidential palace and government buildings in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

More than half a dozen explosions were heard as they clashed with security personnel at the palace's eastern gate, the defence ministry and a CIA station.

The police said all of the attackers were killed. The Taliban said they carried out the assault.

The incident comes days after President Hamid Karzai raised objections about US-backed peace talks with the Taliban.

He said the High Peace Council, the government body set up to lead peace efforts, would not take part unless the process was "Afghan-led".
News conference
The attack near the presidential palace, in the central district of Shash Darak, began at about 06:30 local time (02:00 GMT).

The militants initially targeted the palace's eastern gate - a few hundred metres from the actual building - where dozens of journalists had gathered for a news conference with Mr Karzai scheduled for 09:00.

The BBC's Bilal Sarwary, who was among the crowd of journalists, says they were forced to run for cover as bullets flew overhead.

The journalists heard several explosions, and reports said grenades were being thrown. Tolo TV reported as many as 14 blasts.

The president was inside the palace when the gate came under attack, officials said. The government has yet to comment.

Our correspondent says the area around the palace, which is patrolled regularly throughout the day by special forces and intelligence agents, is now under lockdown.

Later, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a text message: "A number of martyrs attacked the presidential palace, defence ministry and the Ariana Hotel."

The Ariana Hotel is known to house a CIA station.

The assailants reportedly made their way into a nearby building before eventually being killed.

Kabul's police chief, Aoub Salangi, said the attack was brought to an end just under two hours after the first shots were fired. He said there were thought to have been four attackers, and that they had used a fake vehicle security pass to pass through checkpoints.

The Nato-led International Security Assistance Force, whose headquarters is also not far from the scene of the attack, wrote on Twitter that the Afghan National Security Forces had led "the response efforts".

Last week, Isaf handed over responsibility for security to the ANSF for the first time since the Taliban government was ousted in 2001.

International troops will remain in Afghanistan until the end of 2014, providing military back-up when needed.

The BBC's Jonathan Beale says there have been a number of high-profile attacks in Kabul over the past month, though this is the closest insurgents have got to the heart of Afghanistan's government.

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