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Taliban attacks election headquarters ahead of presidential vote

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-03-29

Taliban insurgents attacked the main Afghan election commission’s Kabul headquarters on Saturday, targeting the fortified compound with guns and rocket-propelled grenades as part of a bloody campaign to disrupt next week’s presidential election.

It was the latest in a series of high-profile attacks that come as the Islamic militant movement seeks to derail the April 5 vote, which it has denounced as a Western-backed “sham”.

Afghan security forces battled the militants for about five hours, while frightened Independent Election Commission (EIC) staff and eight UN employees took refuge in safe rooms inside the compound, a security source and staff members said.

Four militants were involved in the attack, all of whom were killed in the ensuing gun battle, according to an Afghan army general on the scene.

“The fight is over. All four terrorists have been killed. An investigation team is in the area,” said commander Qadam Shah Shaheem, adding that three security force members had been injured in the operation.

Noor Mohammed Noor, spokesman for the IEC, said security had already been increased around the compound because an attack had been widely expected.

Kabul police chief Mohammad Zahir Zahir earlier said that up to four attackers had holed up in an empty house about 800 metres away from the election headquarters, which is inside a walled off compound guarded by a series of watch towers and checkpoints.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Foreigners targeted

The Taliban struck another IEC office on the edge of Kabul on Tuesday, with a suicide bomber detonating his vehicle outside while two gunmen stormed into the building, killing four people and trapping dozens of employees inside.

The Taliban have also stepped up attacks on foreigners in the Afghan capital, suggesting that they are shifting their focus to civilian targets that aren’t as heavily protected as military and government installations.

The Taliban targeted an American charity, the Roots of Peace, and a nearby day care center late Friday in the Afghan capital, sending foreigners – including women and children – fleeing while Afghan security forces battled the gunmen. Officials said two Afghan bystanders were killed – a girl and a driver.

Gunmen slipped through security last week into the luxury Serena hotel in Kabul on March 20 with pistols and ammunition hidden in their shoes, then opened fire, killing nine people, including an AFP journalist, his wife and two of his three children who were dining in the restaurant.

A Swedish journalist was shot to death on the street in a relatively affluent area earlier this month, and a Lebanese restaurant popular with foreigners was attacked by a suicide bomber and gunmen in January.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)
 

Date created : 2014-03-29

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