Two dead in Taliban attack on Afghan defence ministry

18th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

Suspected Taliban militants shot dead two soldiers and injured seven others Monday in an audacious attack inside the Afghan defence ministry which the militia said was aimed at France's defence minister.

A suicide bomber wearing army uniform was killed inside the building before he could detonate, the ministry's spokesman said following the assault which struck at the heart of the embattled Kabul government.

French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet is currently on a visit to Afghanistan but was not in the building at the time, a French military spokesman said.

Afghan army spokesman General Mohammad Zahir Azimi told AFP: "A person in Afghan army uniform opened fire on his comrades, killed two soldiers, injured seven others, then was targeted himself and was brought down."

After his death the gunman was found to be wearing a suicide vest, he said.

A military source speaking on condition of anonymity told AFP that three insurgents had managed to enter the building, which faces President Hamid Karzai's office, and that all were killed.

"Three insurgents have been killed. Afghan security forces are in the process of clearing the building," the source said.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, told AFP that Longuet was the target.

"The reason for conducting this attack is the invasion of Afghanistan by the French military," he said, adding that it was not carried out over the controversial banning of the Islamic full-face veil in France.

Afghan Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak was not injured in the attack, a Western security source said, but it is thought that the suicide bomber was shot dead close to the minister's office.

An AFP reporter at the scene said that dozens of Afghan troops had deployed to the area and the army had blocked roads in the vicinity.

There are around 130,000 international troops in Afghanistan helping Afghan government forces fight a near ten-year insurgency led by the Taliban.

Limited withdrawals of international troops are due to start in some more peaceful parts of Afghanistan from July, although Afghan forces are already in charge of security in Kabul.

Afghan forces are due to take full control of security in their country in 2014, allowing international combat forces to withdraw.

Insurgents have increasingly targeted Afghan security forces. On Saturday, five foreign troops and four Afghans were killed in an attack claimed by the Taliban on an army base in Laghman province, eastern Afghanistan.

The assault -- the deadliest against foreign forces since December -- was carried out by a member of the Afghan army, ISAF said Monday.

Saturday was the deadliest day for international forces in Afghanistan since June last year, with a total of eight soldiers killed in separate incidents.

The fighting season in Afghanistan is starting to get under way as spring arrives, and Western officials have warned that it could bring some of the bloodiest fighting yet in the near ten-year war.

© 2011 AFP

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