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Taliban take the battle to Kabul's streets

Last updated on: January 18, 2010 15:33 IST

Taliban take the battle to Kabul's streets

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At least two militants have been killed and 13 injured as the Taliban launched a wave of attacks on Afghanistan's capital Kabul on Monday.

An intense gun battle is going on between the Taliban militants and Afghan security forces near the presidential palace in Kabul.

According to unconfirmed reports, a child, a soldier and a police officer have also been killed in the attacks.

Insurgents also stormed a five-storey shopping mall and were exchanging gunfire with security forces surrounding the building, witnesses said, while local television showed a second shopping centre spewing smoke.


Image: Smoke rises from a shopping mall after a Taliban attack in Kabul
Photographs: Ahmad Masood/Reuters
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Taliban fighters had specific targets

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Those present at the scene heard a series of explosions close to government ministry buildings, followed by gunfire.

"Twenty of our suicide bombers have entered the area and fighting is ongoing," the spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, adding that one militant had detonated a suicide vest at the entrance to the presidential palace complex.

Zabihuallah statement added that the Taliban fighters had specific targets, which included government buildings and the Serena Hotel located in the area.

Television pictures showed the Qari Sami shopping centre in the centre of city on fire, and a second mall, the Gulbahar Centre, about half a mile away, was also spewing smoke.

A security source said an attacker had blown himself up outside it, killing several police and intelligence officials.


Image: Afghan policemen take positions as smoke rises from a shopping mall

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Several small explosions and gunfire

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Helicopters whirled overhead as more than 200 Afghan security forces took on the militants in gun battles on deserted streets.

Later, a UN spokesman confirmed that the firefights with the insurgents had ended.

Meanwhile, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said it was 'working closely with Afghan partners to aggressively contain the situation during which several small explosions were reported near the Feroshgah-e-Afghan shopping centre and the Serena Hotel'.


Image: An Afghan National Army soldier takes position as smoke rises from a shopping mall

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'It is a chaotic scene'

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Army and police snipers have taken positions on buildings around Pashtunistan Square in the centre of the capital.

Streets in the centre of the city have been closed and hotels and government buildings have been locked down.

"It is a chaotic scene. We do not know what to do and where to go," BBC quoted one official trapped in a government building as saying.

The central business district of Kabul is the hub of political, business and diplomatic life.


Image: A video grab shows police forces leaving in a vehicle in Kabul
Photographs: Reuters TV
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Not the first time Kabul has been rattled

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The attack happened as some members of President Hamid Karzai's cabinet were being sworn in.

The attacks come ahead of Karzai's plans to announce a new plan aimed at forging peace with the Taliban and other militants, fighting to topple his administration.

Militants have been brazenly in challenging Afghan and international forces in recent times.

The United States has condemned the attacks as a "desperate" and "ruthless" act by the Taliban.

"It's not surprising that the Taliban do this sort of thing. They are desperate people; they are ruthless. The people doing this certainly will not survive the attack, nor will they succeed. But we can expect this sort of thing on a regular basis," US special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke told media persons in New Delhi.


Image: Smoke rises from a shopping mall as a policeman speaks on his radio during the Taliban attack
Photographs: Ahmad Masood/Reuters
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