Kabul: Three suicide bombers staged an assault on an 18-storey building housing the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology headquarters in the centre of the Afghan capital on Saturday. Two of the attackers were later killed by the security forces.
Hundreds of civilians were rescued from the Afghan Ministry after an explosion followed by the sound of sporadic gunfire had been heard in the complex, said Interior Ministry spokesperson Nasrat Rahimi. Six people were injured in the assault and taken to hospital.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but it follows the suspension of talks between the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents. The outfit’s spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, however, said it was not behind the attack.
The Interior Ministry spokesperson had tweeted earlier in the day that three suicide bombers had launched the attack on the Ministry complex and the post office building at 11.40 am, “taking advantage of a holy shrine”.
The BBC said that the attack happened near the heavily fortified Serena Hotel — one of the very few hotels in Kabul still used by foreign visitors — a couple of other ministries and the presidential palace.
The area around the building was sealed off as the attackers battled security forces for over six hours. Two of them were later shot and the attack was finally over in the late afternoon, Rahimi said.
“Hundreds of civilians have been rescued,” he said, adding that police and special forces were combing the area.
Local television broadcast video images showing some smoke emerging from somewhere near the Ministry and people climbing out of windows.
Saturday’s attack came after the government of Qatar cancelled the first-ever peace talks between the Taliban and representatives of the Afghan government in the presence of a US delegation.
The meeting was set to be held this weekend but was cancelled after the host, Qatar, rejected a list of 250 participants provided by the Afghan government.