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ISIS claims attack on Afghan intelligence agency in Kabul

Kabul, as seen here on Dec. 5, 2017, was the scene of two bombings on Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017.

ERIK SLAVIN/STARS AND STRIPES

By CHAD GARLAND AND ZUBAIR BABAKARKHAIL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 18, 2017

KABUL, Afghanistan — Islamic State militants claimed responsibility for an attack in Kabul on Monday that led to prolonged clashes between gunmen and Afghan security forces near a compound belonging to the country’s main intelligence agency.

Nasrat Rahimi, deputy spokesman for the interior ministry, said three attackers dressed in police uniforms seized a building under construction near a National Directorate of Security, or NDS, training center and fired small arms and rocket-propelled grenades at the center.

Security forces quickly surrounded the building and killed the attackers “one-by-one” over the course of the hours-long standoff, Rahimi said. Three members of the crisis response unit were wounded, but there were no other casualties at the center or in surrounding neighborhoods.

No U.S. or NATO advisers were involved in the attack or the security response to it, said U.S. Navy Capt. Tom Gresback, a spokesman for the coalition mission to train, advise and assist Afghan government forces.

Hassamudin Safi, a police officer in Kabul’s Police District 5, said the standoff ended after several hours at around 3 p.m. and clearance operations were ongoing.

“It took so long to kill the attackers because there are a lot of houses nearby the scene of the attack,” Safi said. “Our forces were careful that civilians were not harmed during their clearance operation.”

ISIS claimed in a statement that two of its fighters had carried out the attack. The group’s local affiliate, known as Islamic State-Khorasan province, or ISIS-K, sprang up in eastern Afghanistan in early 2015 and has carried out multiple high-profile attacks in the Afghan capital this year.

The U.S. has been backing Afghan troops battling the group in its stronghold in Nangarhar province near the border with Pakistan since early last year. U.S. officials said last week the group has around 1,000 fighters in Afghanistan, up from about 700 in March, despite U.S. claims to have removed some 1,600 from the battlefield since the spring.

U.S. and Afghan special operations forces are also preparing to launch a campaign against the group in northwestern Faryab and Jowzjan provinces, where it has gained a foothold, officials said.

The ISIS attack came a day after Taliban fighters in the southern province of Helmand stormed police outposts near the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, killing more than a dozen police personnel.

garland.chad@stripes.com
Twitter: @chadgarland

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