KABUL — The Taliban claimed responsibility for a brazen attack on the Kabul International Airport on Thursday that inflicted little damage but diverted flights and sent the sound of gunfire and explosions rolling across the city for hours.
All five attackers died during close-quarter fighting that lasted about five hours after the attack began about 4 a.m. Four of the insurgents were killed by security forces, while the fifth detonated a suicide vest, police said. Afghan officials said their forces sustained no casualties.
The airport attackers used a truck bomb to blast their way through a fence and into an area near the airport where high-rise apartment buildings are being built, officials said. From the upper levels of one unoccupied structure, the militants opened fire on the nearby military base, also located on the airport grounds.
Officials with the Afghan Air Force said none of their aircraft were damaged during the attack, but aviation authorities grounded and diverted civilian flights until after the fighting ended.
As Afghan government forces left the scene, they were cheered on by a crowd of residents. But the good will dissipated as police unsuccessfully tried to stop the crowd from tearing apart the remains of the truck bomb for scrap. Police fired shots in the air as the crowd surged forward.
Attacks on the airport have become something of a regular occurrence in recent weeks, with insurgents often firing rockets at it. The raid on Thursday was unusual because it involved a ground attack by Taliban fighters.
On Tuesday a car bomb killed 43 people and wounded at least 74 in the eastern province of Paktika. On the same day a roadside bomb in Kabul left two presidential palace staffers dead.
The attacks come amid a tense political period as Afghans attempt to resolve a disputed presidential election. On Thursday election officials and international observers began an unprecedented recount of ballots from the second round of voting.
Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.