KABUL: A squad of suicide bombers attacked the Afghan intelligence agency headquarters in heavily-fortified central Kabul yesterday, killing at least one guard and wounding dozens of civilians, officials said.
All six attackers were killed in the brazen midday attack on the National Directorate of Security (NDS), which is playing an increasingly important role in the war against the Taleban as NATO forces prepare to withdraw next year.
The Taleban claimed responsibility in a text message to AFP, saying “a large number of intelligence workers were killed and wounded”.
The NDS said one of the attackers detonated a suicide car bomb at the gate while five others dismounted from a second vehicle and tried to storm the complex on foot — suggesting that a major attack had been planned.
The five were shot dead, an agency spokesman told a news conference, adding that the car they exited had also been packed with explosives and rigged with a timing device. It was later defused
An NDS spokesman said one guard was killed while a police official earlier said at least two people died, in addition to the attackers.
Thirty-three people, mainly civilians but including some NDS guards, were taken to hospital but about half were discharged after treatment.
On Dec. 6 a suicide bomber posing as a Taleban peace envoy wounded NDS chief Asadullah Khalid, who is still undergoing treatment in the United States, at a spy agency guest house elsewhere in the capital.
Yesterday’s huge explosion was heard throughout Kabul’s diplomatic district, and witnesses said windows were shattered in nearby street.
AFP reporters said it was swarming with security forces moments after the attack.
An NDS official, speaking on condition of anonymity, expressed concern at how the attackers had managed to penetrate one of the most heavily-guarded areas of the capital, which includes the police HQ and the Interior Ministry.
Afghan police and other security forces are increasingly targets of Taleban attacks as they take a bigger role in the fight before the NATO withdrawal.
The NDS plays a crucial role in the fight against the Taleban, who have been waging an insurgency since being ousted from power by the 2001 US-led invasion for harboring Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Its influence on the conduct of the war is likely to grow as the US and NATO withdraw the bulk of their 100,000 combat troops from the country by end-2014 and hand responsibility for the war to Afghan forces.