KABUL — Explosions rocked the Afghan capital throughout the morning Monday as a small unit of Taliban infiltrators battled government troops at Kabul airport.
Kabul police spokesman Hashmatullah Stanikzai said all seven attackers were killed by the security forces and that there were no casualties among the Afghan security forces. He said the police found a truck full of explosives and safely detonated it.
During the 4½ hour battle, the attackers — who struck at 4:30 a.m. — used a car bomb, rocket-propelled grenades, suicide vests and machine-gun fire to attack a gate on the military side of the airport located far from where civilians enter to board commercial flights.
Still, authorities suspended all flights as a precaution during the firefight.
A Taliban spokesman said the group was responsible for the attack and that several foreign security guards were killed; the group often exaggerates casualty figures.
As they have several times in the past, the militants used the tactic of occupying two half-constructed buildings with a view of their target to launch their attack from high ground. While the attackers were unable to inflict damage or casualties on coalition forces, it was another example of a small band of fighters keeping the Afghan security forces at bay for hours. A similar attack on the Kabul Traffic Police headquarters in January lasted nine hours.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force downplayed the role played by international troops in thwarting the attack, though in the past, ISAF officials have understated the role their troops have played in similar operations.
“The Afghan National Police led the operation with ISAF troops in a mentoring role only,” ISAF spokesman Staff Sgt. Daniel Wallace said.
Wallace said no ISAF troops were injured and that no military buildings or aircraft were damaged.
Mohammad Yaqoub Rasooli, director of the Kabul airport, said commercial flights briefly resumed shortly after the attack ended at 9 a.m. but were quickly suspended again for another 1½ hours after airport staff found shrapnel from the attack on the runway.
As often happens in this battle-hardened capital, most people continued to go about their daily business Monday morning, even close to the attack site.
Insurgents have launched several spectacular attacks in Kabul recently as the traditional summer fighting season ramps up, and on Monday the airport attack was the most spectacular of at least three around the country.
In the capital of Zabul province, Qalat, attackers targeting an independent election commission office inside the provincial council offices injured 15 civilians, including two provincial council members, and three Afghan police, according to Zabul’s police chief, Ghulam Sakhi Rogh Lewanai. He said one truck full of attackers exploded before reaching the target and that police killed six attackers with suicide vests in another truck during a brief gunbattle.
In Surubi, a district center close to Kabul, a gunman fired at the district governor in a failed assassination attempt, according to a district official. The governor was unharmed and the gunman arrested.
Meanwhile, an official in Kandahar province said the Taliban had beheaded two boys, aged 10 and 16, Sunday in rural Zhari district, long an insurgent stronghold.
Javed Faisal, a spokesman for the Kandahar provincial government, said insurgents caught the boys, who came from poor families, foraging for food in the trash of Afghan soldiers. ISAF officials had no immediate comment on the report and it was impossible to verify the claim. A Taliban spokesman denied the group was involved in the beheadings.