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Bomb blast rocks Kabul as militants storm guesthouse

Afghan commandos at the scene of a Taliban attack on a guesthouse for foreigners Friday, Dec. 11, 2015. The blast from the attack shook houses in central Kabul, and a number of Afghan commandos and police responded to the scene.

HEATH DRUZIN/STARS AND STRIPES

By HEATH DRUZIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 11, 2015

KABUL, Afghanistan — A car bomb rocked Kabul and militants stormed a guesthouse Friday evening in a deadly attack claimed by the Taliban in the heart of the Afghan capital, police at the scene said.

A Spanish police officer was killed, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said in a statement. Earlier, Rajoy had said a policeman was injured. Rajoy denied reports that the Spanish embassy had been the target.

Intermittent gunfire could be heard well into the night after the blast in the upscale Shir Pur neighborhood, where many diplomats, other foreigners and prominent Afghan officials live. Police said the attackers were barricaded inside the guesthouse and may have occupied other nearby buildings. Just after midnight Saturday, nearly seven hours after the attack began, there was heavy gunfire interspersed with at least four explosions and then silence.

Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said there were at least seven people injured, but he would not confirm whether there were foreigners in the house or whether hostages were being held, as the Taliban claimed.

Afghan Deputy Interior Minister Gen. Ayub Salangi, said security forces had killed two attackers, wounded another and that Afghan troops were continuing to search for more attackers.

At least eight Afghans, five civilians and three members of the security forces, arrived at a hospital run by the nongovernmental organization EMERGENCY. All had light injuries from the car bomb blast.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said militants attacked a guesthouse occupied by foreigners, had killed a number of foreigners inside and taken others hostage. He gave no numbers.

The attack comes on the heels of a Taliban siege of the Kandahar Airport earlier this week, which left 50 people dead and raised fresh questions about the capabilities of the Afghan security forces, who are battling insurgents largely on their own now that international forces have vastly scaled down their troops levels. 

Both attacks come long after the traditional warm-weather fighting season. Violence generally dips in the fall, when many insurgents head back to safe havens in Pakistan.

Roughly 10,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan, largely in a training and advisory role, though a large proportion of them are also conducting counterterrorism operations. Continued fierce fighting between insurgents and Afghan troops prompted President Barack Obama to announce in October that he would extend the American military mission and keep the number of troops at roughly the current level into the coming year.

Josh Smith and Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.

druzin.heath@stripes.com
Twitter: @Druzin_Stripes
 

Afghan security forces at the scene of a Taliban attack on Friday, Dec. 11, 2015, in Kabul, Afghanistan. An unknown number of militants detonated a car bomb and then stormed a guesthouse where foreigners live.
HEATH DRUZIN/STARS AND STRIPES

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