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Taliban coordinate attacks in Kabul, three other cities

Reveals limitations of security forces

- Associated Press - Sunday, April 15, 2012

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban launched a series of coordinated attacks on as many as seven sites across the Afghan capital on Sunday, targeting NATO bases, the parliament and Western embassies.

Militants also launched near-simultaneous assaults in three other eastern cities.

At least two assailants were killed and five people wounded in Kabul, where fighting was still raging hours after it began. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility, saying in a statement that scores of suicide bombers were carrying out strikes in the capital and three other provinces - Paktia, Nangarhar and Logar.

The attacks were the most spectacular in the heavily guarded capital since September, and demonstrated the insurgents' resolve heading into the spring fighting season, when warmer weather typically brings increased attacks.

The scale and scope of the violence also underscored the Afghan security forces' struggles to protect even the heart of national power as the U.S.-led international force speeds up the transfer of security responsibility ahead of the end of the NATO mission in 2014.

The Kabul attack began Sunday afternoon with explosions in the central neighborhood of Wazir Akbar Khan, where a NATO base and a number of embassies, including that of the U.S., are located. Gunfire erupted soon after the blasts, forcing people caught out in the street to scramble for cover.

More than 10 explosions in all rocked the city, and heavy gunfire crackled across the rooftops for hours as smoke rose over the skyline and sirens wailed.

In an e-mailed statement, Mr. Mujahid said the attacks were targeting NATO headquarters, the British and German Embassies, the Afghan parliament building, the Serena and Kabul Star hotels, and sites along Darulaman road, where the Russian Embassy is located.

At the same time, Taliban fighters launched assaults on Afghan and NATO installations in the capital cities of Nangarhar, Logar and Paktia provinces, he said.

"In all these attacks, tens of mujahedeen fighters equipped with light and heavy weapons, suicide vests, RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades], rockets, heavy machine guns and hand grenades are attacking their targets," Mr. Mujahid said.

He told the Associated Press in a phone call that the insurgent group had planned the assault for two months to show the extent of their power after being called "weak" by NATO forces.

"We are strong and we can attack anywhere we want," he said, adding that the assault was in advance of the insurgency's spring offensive.

The American Embassy said in a statement that there were attacks "in the vicinity of the U.S. Embassy." The German Foreign Ministry said there was some damage to the grounds of the German Embassy, but it did not appear that anyone had been hurt.

Militants holed up in a tall building still under construction were firing rockets in different directions, according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene. It was not immediately clear what they were targeting, but shots appeared to be focusing on the nearby British Embassy.

The coordinated assaults showed a sophistication that is reminiscent of the last sustained attack in the heavily guarded capital in September 2011. That attack was blamed on the Haqqani Network, a Pakistan-based group allied with the Taliban.

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