Dozens killed in Afghanistan after gunmen storm Kabul government office, 20 wounded



December 25, 2018 10:41:16

Gunmen have raided a government building in Afghanistan’s capital, killing at least 28 people and wounding more than 20 others in a seven-hour standoff with police, Afghan authorities have said.

Key points:

  • Suicide bomber and three gunmen killed during attack
  • An unknown number of government employees were taken hostage during a seven-hour siege
  • No group has taken responsibility yet

Among the dead are a policeman and three of the attackers who were shot dead by Afghan security forces, Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said.

The attack began on Monday afternoon when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a car outside the public works ministry.

Militants then stormed the building of the National Authority for Disabled People and Martyrs Families, taking civilians hostage as they fought a gun battle against Afghan soldiers.

Afghan security forces went from floor to floor of the building in an operation to rescue more than 350 people inside, but had to exercise restraint in their operations against the attackers given the number of employees there, a senior security official said.

No militant group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

At least 20 people wounded in the clashes were taken to hospital.

An official working in another government building close by said employees had locked themselves in their offices after hearing the explosions and gunfire. During the standoff, the building’s second floor caught fire, local news channels reported.

Attacks on government offices are frequent and are generally carried out by the Islamist Taliban, who are fighting to expel foreign forces from strategic provinces, topple the Western-backed government and restore their version of hardline Islamic law.

The 17-year-old war with the Taliban has seen both fighting and diplomacy intensify in recent months.

Thousands of US troops set to leave

On Thursday, an official said US President Donald Trump was planning to withdraw at least 5,000 of the 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan, a day after Mr Trump unexpectedly announced that US troops in Syria would be withdrawn.

The United States went to war in Afghanistan in 2001 in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, seeking to oust Taliban militants harbouring Saudi-raised militant leader Osama bin Laden, who led plans to carry out the attacks.

At present, American troops make up the bulk of the Resolute Support mission to train and advise Afghan forces fighting the Taliban and the Islamic State militant group.

The prospect of a US drawdown has triggered widespread uncertainty in war-torn Afghanistan.

With security deteriorating, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday replaced his defence and interior ministers with two uncompromising opponents of the Taliban.








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