Kabul: Militants detonated a car bomb before storming a Kabul government compound in an ongoing attack Monday, officials and witnesses said, in the latest violence to rock the Afghan capital. A number of gunmen have entered the compound where the Ministry of Public Works and an office of the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled are located, interior ministry deputy spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said. At least three wounded have been taken to hospital, an AFP correspondent at a medical facility said.
One had broken several bones after jumping off a building to escape the attackers. The other two were wounded by broken glass. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the raid that began with a bomb-laden vehicle exploding at the entrance. Ashraf, a witness who works at the Ministry of Public Works and who goes by one name, said militants inside the compound were exchanging gunfire with security forces. “They are also firing at the NDS facility nearby,” he told AFP after escaping the compound, referring to the Afghan spy agency, the National Directorate of Security.
An Afghan security source told AFP the gunmen had entered the office of the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled. The attack caps a tumultous few days for Afghanistan after an American official told AFP late last week that President Donald Trump had decided to pull out “roughly half” of the 14,000 US forces in the country. The unexpected move stunned and dismayed foreign diplomats and Afghan officials in Kabul who are intensifying a push to end the 17-year conflict with the Taliban.
The assault also comes a day after President Ashraf Ghani appointed Amrullah Saleh and Assadullah Khaled, both former spymasters known for their anti-Taliban and Pakistan stance, to head the interior and defence ministries, respectively. Militants have previously targeted government ministries and departments because they are often poorly defended and seen as soft targets. Monday’s attack was the biggest in Kabul since November 28 when the Taliban detonated a vehicle bomb outside the compound of British security firm G4S, killing at least 10 people and leaving a massive crater in the road.
While there has been no official announcement of a US drawdown, the mere suggestion of the United States reducing its military presence has rattled the Afghan capital. Trump’s decision apparently came Tuesday as US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad met with the Taliban in Abu Dhabi, part of efforts to bring the militants to the negotiating table with Kabul.