Taliban suicide bomber, gunmen attack Afghan parliament
Kabul: Taliban militants launched an assault on the Afghan parliament today, triggering gunfire and explosions and sending lawmakers scurrying for cover in chaotic scenes relayed live on television.
The attack came as the Afghan president’s nominee for the crucial post of defence minister was to be introduced in parliament and ended two hours later when all seven attackers, including a suicide car bomber, were dead.
The assault on such a high-profile target in downtown Kabul raises fresh questions about security as Afghan forces battle a resurgent Taliban for the first time without the aid of NATO forces, who ended their combat mission in December.
“First a car bomb detonated on the main road near the parliament building, then a group of attackers entered a building in front of parliament,” Kabul police spokesman Ebadullah Karimi told AFP.
Deputy interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish said there were seven attackers. Around 15 civilians were wounded in the initial explosion, he said.
The attackers also fired rocket-propelled grenades at the parliament, causing minor damage, he said.
MP Mohammad Reza Khoshak, who was in the chamber at the time, described the moment the first blast struck.
“The session was on and we were waiting for the defence minister nominee…Suddenly we heard a loud explosion, followed by several other smaller explosions,” he told AFP.
“In a few seconds the hall was filled with smoke and MPs began fleeing the building.”
The Taliban launched a countrywide offensive in late April, stepping up attacks on government and foreign targets in what is expected to be the bloodiest fighting season in a decade.
The militants recently rebuffed requests from senior Afghan clerics to halt attacks during the fasting month of Ramadan even as a surge in violence has sent civilian casualties soaring.
A group of suicide attackers last tried to storm parliament in 2012 as they launched coordinated attacks in several parts of the capital, including several diplomatic enclaves.
The Taliban, toppled from power in the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan, swiftly claimed responsibility for the latest attack.
“Several mujahideen have entered the parliament building,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid posted on Twitter.
“The attack happened at a time when the defence minister was being introduced.” Police denied that Taliban fighters had breached the high-security complex.