Gunshots, explosion as insurgents attack Spanish embassy in Kabul
Insurgents have raided a Spanish embassy compound in Kabul, Afghan officials said Friday, in an ongoing assault as a massive car bomb and gunfire rocked the city's diplomatic district during evening rush hour.
It was not immediately clear if there were casualties from the attack, which a source said sent staff racing into the embassy bunker and which follows a 27-hour Taliban siege this week of Kandahar airport which killed at least 50 people.
“The embassy has been attacked. We are gathering details,” a foreign ministry spokesman in Madrid told AFP, information that was confirmed by the Kabul police.
“Staff are in the embassy bunker, waiting to be saved by Afghan forces,” an informed source told AFP.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault, but said the target was a foreign guest house. It was not immediately clear if the guest house was inside the embassy premises.
The embassy is in Sherpur district in central Kabul, where a huge car bomb struck during rush hour on Friday evening, followed by bursts of gunfire.
Sherpur is home to several foreign NGOs and residences of senior government officials, including former warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, Afghanistan’s first vice-president.
Security officials had cordoned off the streets and ambulances with wailing sirens were seen rushing to the scene.
The assault comes as the resurgent Taliban escalate attacks against government and foreign targets even as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani pushes to jumpstart peace talks with the militants.
Spanish news agency Europa Press reported that President Mariano Rajoy had been informed, citing government sources.
Spain had nine troops left in Afghanistan as of December 2015, according to official NATO figures.
The attack follows a 27-hour Taliban siege this week of Kandahar airport, the largest military installation in southern Afghanistan, in which at least 50 people died, including women and children.
Eleven suicide attackers on Tuesday breached the high-security complex which also houses a joint NATO-Afghan base, taking families hostage and triggering pitched firefights with soldiers.
As the country grappled with the aftermath of the attack, its spy chief on Thursday quit his post, laying bare disagreements with Ghani over his diplomatic outreach to Pakistan, long blamed for nurturing the Taliban.
The resignation of Rahmatullah Nabil on Thursday highlights the domestic backlash Ghani faces over his attempts to repair strained relations with Islamabad.
But Ghani has staked considerable political capital in advocating bonhomie with the neighbour, and he shrugged off Nabil’s criticism on Friday, saying Pakistan was a necessary partner in restarting peace talks aimed at ending Afghanistan’s long war.
“Without positive support from Pakistan, won’t the war in Afghanistan keep dragging on? You answer me,” Ghani told a press conference on Friday.
“If one of the main sources of instability in Afghanistan is our neighbour… then there is a comprehensive need to work together to end this fighting.”
But the Taliban rebuffed his remarks.
“The mujahideen are making rapid military gains, capturing territory and destroying enemy centres,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid wrote on Twitter.
“Expecting us to surrender and come for talks is foolishness.”