KABUL: Taliban militants launched a brazen assault on the Afghan parliament Monday, triggering gunfire and explosions and sending lawmakers scurrying for cover in an attack that killed two civilians, including a child.
The raid came as the Afghan president’s nominee for the crucial post of defence minister was to be introduced in parliament and ended two hours later with the killing of all seven attackers, including a suicide car bombing.
The assault on such a high-profile target in downtown Kabul raises fresh questions about security as Afghan forces battle a resurgent Taliban for the first time without the aid of NATO forces, who ended their combat mission in December.
“First a car bomb detonated on the main road near the parliament building, then a group of attackers entered a building in front of parliament,” Kabul police spokesman Ebadullah Karimi told media.
The insurgents were repelled after failing to enter the parliament but took up position in a partially constructed building nearby, he said.
Officials said two civilians, a woman and a child, were killed in the attack, which left a thick plume of smoke hanging over the parliament complex and tore a huge crater in an adjoining street.
Deputy interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish said there were seven attackers and the health ministry reported 31 people, including five women and a child, wounded.
Dramatic television footage of the moment the first explosion struck showed pandemonium and screams inside parliament, with Speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi sitting in his chair, calmly telling lawmakers “it’s an electrical issue”.
MP Mohammad Reza Khoshak, who was in the chamber at the time, described hearing “a loud explosion, followed by several other smaller explosions”.
“In a few seconds the hall was filled with smoke and MPs began fleeing the building,” he told media.
The attackers also fired rocket-propelled grenades at the parliament, causing some damage to the complex.
The Taliban launched a countrywide offensive in late April, stepping up attacks on government and foreign targets in what is expected to be the bloodiest fighting season in a decade.
The militants recently rebuffed requests from senior Afghan clerics to halt attacks during the fasting month of Ramadan even as a surge in violence has sent civilian casualties soaring.
A group of suicide attackers last tried to storm parliament in 2012 as they launched coordinated attacks in several parts of the capital, including several diplomatic enclaves.
The attack ended after all seven militants were killed, the government said. “The attack has ended now. Seven attackers were involved – one detonated a car near the parliament building and six were killed by security forces after they entered a nearby building,” deputy interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish told media.
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