Militants storm Kabul spy training center

Afghan security personnel arrive at the site of complex attack at an intelligence training center in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Dec. 18, 2017. (AP)
Updated 18 December 2017
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Militants storm Kabul spy training center

KABUL: Militants stormed an intelligence agency training facility in Kabul on Monday, officials said, triggering intense fighting with police in the latest Daesh group attack to hit the Afghan capital.
“Around 10:10 am, a group of armed attackers entered an under-construction building in (the) NDS training center in (the) Afshar area of Kabul,” interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish told AFP, referring to the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s spy agency.
“The fighting is ongoing and we have also launched our operation.”
Nasrat Rahim, a deputy interior ministry spokesman, said the sound of large and small arms fire could be heard from the fighting.
“There are three attackers involved... the clearance operation is ongoing,” said the spokesman, adding there were no immediate reports of any casualties.
Roads to the area were closed and dozens of police and intelligence officers were blocking access to the public. AFP reporters, who were held more than a kilometer away from the scene, saw ambulances and reinforcements headed toward the site.
“I was going toward my school. It (the attack) happened suddenly... the police arrived in the area fast and blocked the roads, not allowing anyone to get to their homes,” Naweed, a student, told AFP.
Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack through its propaganda arm.
“Two IS attackers raid the Afghan intelligence center in Kabul,” the jihadists’ Amaq outlet reported.
The Afghan capital has become one of the deadliest places in the war-torn country for civilians in recent months, as the resurgent Taliban and increasingly Daesh both step up their attacks, targeting security installations and mosques.
Security in Kabul has been ramped up since May 31 when a massive truck bomb ripped through the city’s diplomatic quarter, killing about 150 and wounding around 400 people, mostly civilians.
No group has officially claimed responsibility for that attack, which the government has blamed on the Taliban-allied Haqqani Network.
Monday’s attack represents another blow to beleaguered Afghan forces.
The Taliban have targeted military installations in recent months, including a spate of attacks in October that killed around 150 people.
Afghan forces, already beset by desertions and corruption, have seen casualties soar to what a US watchdog has described as “shockingly high” levels since NATO forces officially ended their combat mission in 2014.
Morale has been further eroded by long-running fears that the militants have insider help — everything from infiltrators in the ranks to corrupt Afghan forces selling equipment to the Taliban.
But Daesh, which has expanded its presence in Afghanistan since it first appeared in the region in 2015, has also dramatically scaled up its attacks in Kabul, including on the country’s Shiite minority.
In November, a suicide attacker blew himself up outside a political gathering in Kabul, killing at least 14 people in an attack claimed by Daesh.


Taliban rejects pleas by Afghan elders for a cease-fire extension

Updated 31 min 14 sec ago
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Taliban rejects pleas by Afghan elders for a cease-fire extension

  • Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid dismissed the peace “slogans”
  • The success of such local initiatives is mixed and may stand little chance as military operations pick up

KABUL: The Taliban on Monday rejected pleas by Afghan elders and activists for an extension of this month’s cease-fire and said they amounted to a call for surrender to foreign forces.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid dismissed the peace “slogans” and urged civil society activists and others not to join movements he said played into the hands of US and international forces the Taliban wants to force from the country.
“They are not speaking about the occupation or the withdrawal of foreigners. Their objective is that we lay down our weapons and accept the regime imposed by the invaders,” he said in a statement.
A truce over the three day Eid Al-Fitr festival this month, during which unarmed Taliban fighters mingled with soldiers and civilians in the capital Kabul and other cities has given fresh impetus to the calls for peace, although many also dismiss the cease-fire as a Taliban trick.
A small group of peace marchers who came to Kabul on foot from the southern province of Helmand this month have also gained prominence, with pleas to all sides to end a conflict which has now lasted for 40 years.
“Tribal elders may not be able to bring about peace and create a cease-fire to the whole country but they can for their own districts and they will,” said Dawlat Wazir, an elder in Jani Khil district in the eastern province of Paktia.
In Jani Khil, elders held a meeting that drew hundreds of people at the weekend, calling on the government and Taliban forces to refrain from fighting in their area.
“We are so fed up with operations by government forces in our areas that trigger fighting for days,” said Malek Sakhto, one of the elders behind the meeting. “We’re pleading with the government and the Taliban to agree on a cease-fire and stop killing each other and civilians.”
The success of such local initiatives is mixed and may stand little chance as military operations pick up.
President Ashraf Ghani ordered government forces to stop offensive operations against the Taliban for another 10 days after the end of the cease-fire but there has since been fierce fighting in several areas.
In Logar, to the south of the capital Kabul, local elders and religious scholars have been trying to arrange a cease-fire in Azra district, according to Abdul Wali, a member of the Logar provincial council.
He said an informal accord had been reached but local people were still waiting for an official announcement from the Taliban shadow governor for Logar, Muallah Ismail Akhondzada.
In Kunar province, on the border with Pakistan, another group of walkers is making its way to Kabul, a statement from the governor’s office said.