Militants besiege Kabul guesthouse

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Published: Wednesday 27th May 2015 by The News Editor

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Heavy gunfire and explosions echoed through an upmarket neighbourhood in Afghanistan’s capital as police surrounded a guesthouse popular with foreigners thought to be under attack by insurgents.

The firefight in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighbourhood, which is home to several embassies, sounded to be focused on the Rabbani Guesthouse. It began with heavy explosions accompanying sporadic automatic weapon fire.

Police blocked off roads into the area and smashed lights throughout the neighbourhood to cover their movements.

Deputy interior minister Mohammad Ayub Salangi said a guesthouse appeared to be the target of the attack, without specifically naming the Rabbani. He said two attackers had been killed but authorities did not know how many were involved.

Police later fanned out around the neighbourhood, taking up positions on rooftops, although visibility was limited by darkness and the trees that line the streets.

The guesthouse, once known as the Heetal Hotel, was damaged in a December 2009 suicide car bomb attack near the home of former Afghan vice president Ahmad Zia Massoud – brother of anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was killed in an al Qaida suicide bombing two days before the September 11 attacks in 2001.

That 2009 attack killed eight people and wounded nearly 40.

The hotel is owned by the Rabbani family, who include the late Burhanuddin Rabbani, who served as president of Afghanistan from 1992 until 1996, and current foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani.

Taliban militants attacked a guesthouse earlier this month in Kabul, killing an American, a British citizen, an Italian, four Indian nationals, five Afghans and two Pakistanis. The United Nations has documented a record high number of civilian casualties – 974 killed and 1,963 injured – in the first four months of this year, a 16% increase over the same period last year.

Afghan security forces have been struggling to fend off Taliban attacks since US and Nato forces formally concluded their combat mission at the end of last year.

Earlier, four militants launched an attack on the court in the capital of Wardak province, 25 miles from Kabul, said Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the governor.

One of the attackers blew himself up as the other three exchanged fire with police before being killed, Mr Khogyani said.

In Uruzgan province, officials said a district has been under attack by militants for the past two weeks.

“A high number of Taliban are attacking different checkpoints but we are not getting any response from senior officials in Kabul,” district chief Abdul Karim Karimi said.

He said that since the fighting began, 12 soldiers have been killed and dozens wounded.

“Unless we get government help, we are going to lose the district,” he said.

Militants also killed at least 26 police officers and soldiers in ambushes in southern Helmand province. As police retreated, militants surrounded the police headquarters of Naw Zad district and fired down on them from surrounding hills, district police chief Napas Khan said.

Published: Wednesday 27th May 2015 by The News Editor

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