KABUL: A Taliban suicide bomber and gunmen attacked the Afghan parliament on Monday, shattering windows, wounding at least 19 people and sending a plume of black smoke across Kabul, as a second district in two days fell to the Islamist group in the north.
The attack ended after all seven militants were killed, the government said. “The attack has ended now. Seven attackers were involved ─ one detonated a car near the parliament building and six were killed by security forces after they entered a nearby building,” deputy interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish told AFP.
“A suicide bomber blew himself up just outside the parliament building and several fighters took positions in a building close to parliament,” said Ebadullah Karimi, spokesman for Kabul police.
Kabul police chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi said all lawmakers were safe and that fighting was ongoing.
TV pictures showed legislators calmly leaving the building which was engulfed with dust and smoke.
Lawmaker Shukria Barekzai said: “It was a huge blast that shook the building and shattered windows.”
“The Taliban managed to take it over this morning as the area has been surrounded for days,” Nasruddin Saeedi, the district governor who escaped to the provincial capital, Kunduz city, told Reuters by telephone.
“They are many foreign fighters with heavy machine guns. We have asked for reinforcements, but none arrived.” Afghan soldiers were preparing a counterattack to retake both districts, another local official said.
Monday’s heavy fighting was just three kilometres from the governor’s compound.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack which occurred as the Afghan president’s nominee for the crucial post of defence minister was to be introduced in parliament.
“Several mujahideen have entered the parliament building, heavy fighting is on going,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid posted on Twitter. “The attack happened at a time when the defence minister was being introduced,” he added.
The withdrawal of foreign forces and a reduction in United States air strikes have allowed Taliban fighters to launch several major attacks in important Afghan provinces.
The Taliban captured Dasht-e-Archi district a day after hundreds of militants fought their way to the centre of the adjacent district of Chardara.
The insurgents launched a countrywide offensive in late April, stepping up attacks on government and foreign targets in what is expected to be the bloodiest fighting season in a decade.
The militants recently rebuffed requests from senior Afghan clerics to halt attacks during the fasting month of Ramazan even as a surge in violence has sent civilian casualties soaring.