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Afghan Crisis Response Unit personnel on the roof of the traffic police HQ during a clash between forces and Taliban fighters in Kabul, yesterday.
KABUL: Nato troops joined a fight against a Taliban suicide squad that stormed the traffic police headquarters in Kabul at dawn yesterday, killing three officers and unleashing a stand-off that lasted more than eight hours.
The Taliban claimed the attack, which turned into the longest stand-off between the insurgents and security forces, since a co-ordinated raid on the capital lasted 18 hours in April last year.
Three of the five attackers were killed in the early part of the assault, while two wearing suicide vests holed up in the five-storey building in west Kabul and fired on forces. They were later killed.
“It’s over. The last two terrorists are dead and they were not even given the chance to detonate their suicide vests,” Police Chief General Mohammad Ayoub Salangi said.
The reason it took so long to overpower the two men was “because our boys acted very carefully”, he said. “There were important documents so we acted carefully to not cause any damage to them.”
Four traffic police, two members of special forces and half a dozen civilians were wounded, Deputy Interior Minister General Abdul Rahman said.
Norwegian soldiers were seen firing at the police building, sources said.
Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed its participation in the operation but insisted it was small. “We had a very small number of people assisting Afghan security forces at the scene. It was primarily an advising role and absolutely Afghan officials were in the lead,” a spokesman said.
Nato says the Taliban insurgency has been weakened and characterised the attack as a ploy to attract media attention, but the time it took to mop up the insurgents will be seen as an embarrassment.
“They (the Taliban) are losing the fight,” said General Gunter Katz, ISAF military spokesman. “They cannot fight face to face. These attacks are only to attract the media. They carry out attacks in cities and crowded areas where civilians suffer.” The assault began with a car bomb explosion that shattered the windows of nearby homes, followed by several explosions and gunfire.
Taliban insurgents, waging an 11-year war against the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai, claimed credit for the attack, which began at 5am (0030 GMT).
“A large number of fedayeen (suicide bombers) entered a building in Dehmazang and are attacking an American training centre, a police centre and other military centres and have caused heavy casualties on the enemy,” a Taliban spokesman said.
There is no US or Nato-run training facility in the area and the Taliban are known to exaggerate when claiming attacks.
The attack came less than a week after a squad of suicide bombers attacked the Afghan intelligence agency headquarters in Kabul, killing one guard and wounding dozens of civilians.
All six attackers were killed in the attack on the National Directorate of Security, also claimed by the Taliban.
Afghan police and other security forces are becoming targets of Taliban attacks as they take a bigger role in the battle against the insurgents before Nato withdraws the bulk of its 100,000 troops by the end of 2014.
ISAF and Afghan forces also killed 10 armed rebels and arrested 10 in seven operations in Nangarhar, Uruzgan, Ghazni, Khost and Helmand provinces and seized arms and ammunition.
Meanwhile, Romanian President Traian Basescu told foreign ambassadors that his country will continue to provide support to Kabul in terms of (military) training even after 2014. Nearly 2,000 Romanian soldiers are in Afghanistan as part of ISAF. Agencies