18-hr Taliban siege ends in Kabul, all militants killed

Kabul: An audacious 18-hour Taliban attack on the Afghan capital was brought to an end this morning after militants holed up in two buildings near Parliament were killed by heavy gunfire by Afghan security forces and air assaults from NATO helicopters.

Security forces have flushed out insurgents from the central diplomatic area and killed the last gunman who was fighting near Parliament in the west of the city, a senior police official said.

The official put the toll in multiple sieges of the parts of the city at atleast 32 militants and one police officer. The figure of those wounded was put at 30, including five civilians.

Residents of Kabul woke up to a second day of explosions and the crackle of gunfire today as Afghan forces targetted the two spots were militants were holed up overnight with heavy guns to bring an end to multiple sieges clearly designed to undermine confidence in NATO and Afghan military gains.

After the last of the militants was smoked out, silence fell on the city whose main roads were littered with bullet shells. "The battle is over in Kabul… All the three places in Kabul were cleared and all the militants were killed," Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Siddiq Seddiqi told PTI. "The fighting ended at 7:20 Kabul time (this morning) and all the roads are open now," he said.

Kabul and three other Afghan cities were hit by a wave of suicide attacks on Sunday, with embassies and NATO bases coming under fire in what Taliban said was the start of their "spring offensive."

Afghan security forces, which is responsible for the capital`s security, took the lead in countering the assault. The US, British, German and Japanese embassy compounds also came under fire in the first major attack on the city in more than six months, but no Indian target was attacked. All the staff in the missions were reportedly safe.

An External Affairs Ministry statement issued in Delhi said all Indian citizens were safe. As in the earlier attack Taliban militants took over half built buildings and used them to fire down on nearby embassies and military bases. They attacked Kabul Star Hotel in Wazir Akbar Khan area of the capital and some tried to storm the Parliament firing rockets but were engaged by security forces and driven back.

The Parliament was in session and some MPs joined security forces in fighting them. Mohammad Naeem Lalai, an MP, was quoted as having said that some lawmakers including him and his bodyguards fought the militants. The militants also struck at cities in three provinces – an airport in Jalalabad, Logar and Paktia.

In a text message to the reporters, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed claimed responsibility for the attacks and warned that the strikes were the beginning of the "spring offensive". He said scores of suicide bombers struck Afghan and NATO installations in Kabul and in capital cities of three other provinces of Paktia, Nangarhar and Logar.

"In all these attacks, tens of mujahedeen fighters equipped with light and heavy weapons, suicide vests, RPGs, rockets, heavy machine guns and hand grenades are attacking their targets," Mujahed said. Afghan officials said they have also arrested two would-be suicide bombers, who intended to kill the second vice-president, Mohamed Karim Khalili.