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Musadeq Sadeq/AP/Press Association Images

Coordinated attacks hit Afghanistan

Kabul and three other cities were targeted in the attacks. They were blamed on the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, which has links to al-Qaida.

ATTACKS ON FOUR Afghanistan cities have been blamed on a Pakistani network with al-Qaida links.

Interior Minister Besmillah Mohammadi said one of the militants arrested during the latest attacks on Kabul and three other cities has told authorities the al-Qaida-linked Haqqani network was behind the assaults.

Mohammadi also said that eight members of the Afghan security forces were killed and 40 others were wounded. He said three civilians were killed and 25 others were wounded.

A brazen, 18-hour Taliban attack on the Afghan capital ended early this morning when insurgents who had holed up overnight in two buildings were overcome by heavy gunfire from Afghan-led forces and pre-dawn air assaults from US-led coalition helicopters.

Authorities said one police officer and at least 17 militants were killed in the multi-pronged attacks in Kabul and three eastern cities. The violence showed the Taliban and their allies are far from beaten and underscored the security challenge facing government forces as US and NATO forces draw down. The majority of international combat troops are scheduled to leave by the end of 2014.

The Taliban began their near-simultaneous assaults on embassies, government buildings and NATO bases at 1.30 pm on Sunday, saying it was their response to NATO officials’ recent claims that the insurgency was weak.

The US, German and British embassies and some coalition and Afghan government buildings took direct and indirect fire, according to a spokesman for the US-led coalition. By about 6.30 am, the blasts and shooting had stopped.

It was the most widespread attack in the Afghan capital since an assault on the US Embassy and NATO headquarters last September blamed on the Haqqani network, a Pakistan-based insurgent group allied with the Taliban. Explosions and the crackle of gunfire could be heard throughout the night.

An Afghan man examines the remains of a car after three suicide bombers were killed before they reached Jalalabad airport, which security forces say was their target. (Rahmat Gul/AP/Press Association Images)

As in the earlier attack, armed insurgents took over half-built buildings and used them to fire down on nearby embassies and bases.

Militants also attacked a NATO site on the outskirts of Kabul, where a joint Greek-Turkish base came under heavy fire and forces responded with heavy-calibre machine guns, according to an AP reporter at the scene. A police officer said a suicide bomber inside a building near the base was shooting toward the Kabul Military Training Center.

The eastern cities of Jalalabad, Gardez and Pul-e-Alam also came under attack, with suicide bombers trying to storm a NATO base, an airport and police installations.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said dozens of suicide attackers and gunmen were involved in attacks that had been planned for two months to show the insurgency’s power after NATO commanders called the Taliban weak and said there was no indication they were planning a spring offensive.

The near-simultaneous assaults were the latest blow to an international effort that has been on edge for months. Distrust between international and Afghan forces has grown following the release of a video purporting to show Marines urinating on Taliban corpses, as well as the burning of Qurans at a US base and a deadly attack by a US soldier that killed 17 Afghan villagers.

Those tensions had appeared to be subsiding in recent weeks and the relatively quiet start to spring had brought hope: a deal governing night raids, talks with the Hizb-i-Islami insurgent group and the appointment of a new head to the High Peace Council — which is trying to negotiate with the Taliban.

- Heidi Vogt, Rahim Faie

Associated Foreign Press
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