Monday, June 24, 2013

Updated With Video: Taliban Attack On Afghan Presidential Palace Ends, All Attackers Killed

June 24, 2013 - 11:00 PM EDT - The Presidential palace ("the Arg") in Kabul, Afghanistan was attacked by four Taliban suicide bombers Monday morning. None breached the palace's security walls. One bomber blew himself up and three others were shot by Afghan security forces. Casualties were reported but the number is not known.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai was in the palace compound when the attack began around 6:20 AM local time (0200 GMT). Karzai had a scheduled meeting with journalists.

Karzai "never appeared to be in danger," reports The Guardian. He was "behind several more walls inside the heavily fortified palace itself. One source who was inside the complex, which has outer walls several dozen metres thick in places, said the fighting never approached the inner area."

The attack was put down entirely by Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). Earlier this month, ANSF  took the lead in providing security for Afghanistan, with NATO now in a support-only role.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, and said their targets included the Ariana Hotel, which is home to the CIA station in Kabul.

Afghan security officials said they believe the attack was actually executed by the Taliban-linked Haqqani Network, reports Reuters.  "The Haqqani Network is accused of masterminding high-profile attacks in Kabul and is believed to have close links to al Qaeda."

Earlier Reports, as it was happening:

UPDATE, 11:58 PM EDT: Dylan Welch (‏@dylanwelch) tweeted, "Kabul police chief @MASalangi says fight over."

UPDATE, 11:58 PM EDT: Ahmad Mukhtar ‏(@AhMukhtar) tweeted, "An intelligence officer tells me the attackers had fake ISAF ID cards." Sharifullah Sahak ‏(@sharifsahak) with the New York Times tweeted, "Police officials are saying suicide bombers were ridding in US type Surf vehicles and using fake ISAF badges with SIM cards." Fifteen minutes later, Sahak tweeted "Kabul police chief Gen, Salangi says that all the bombers are dead and the area is secured by police forces no word on causality no."  At 2:00 AM EDT, Sahak tweeted that the Afghan Defense Ministry said "that there were total of 4 suicide bombers involved in today's terrorist attack 1 blew himself up 3 gunned down."

UPDATE, 11:40 PM EDT: NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) tweeted: "This morning's attack came as PoA [President of Afghanistan Karzai] was preparing to speak at National Youth Policy conference, not about Taliban peace process."

UPDATE, 11:23 PM EDT: ISAF tweeted: "#ANSF on-scene establishing cordon and responding to #Kabul attack" and this a few minutes earlier: "ANSF has the ball! #ANSFCanDo! RT @ISAFmedia: #ANSF is in the lead. No request for #ISAF assistance from GIRoA at this time."

Smoke rises from the Presidential Palace in Kabul, 24 June 2013
Smoke rises from the Presidential Palace in Kabul, 24 June
Photo: Sohail Ahmed on Facebook
"Militants have attacked security forces near the presidential palace in the centre of the Afghan capital, Kabul," reports BBC News. "A BBC correspondent says the assailants are embroiled in clashes with President Hamid Karzai's bodyguards, as well as US personnel from the nearby CIA station. There have been a series of loud explosions, sending debris flying. The attack comes only days after Mr Karzai raised objections about US-backed peace talks with the Taliban."

Al Jazeera's report: "There is an ongoing militant attack in central Kabul," Mohammad Zahir, Kabul police CID chief, told AFP news agency after the attack began at about 6:30am local time on Tuesday... the attack mirrored recent previous incidents and appeared to be well-coordinated. A number of the attackers targeted the west gate, which is near the CIA office, our producer said, adding that black smoke was billowing out of the building. [It is] said President Hamid Karzai was likely to be in his office at the time as he was due to address the media." More at Al Jazeera...

At 11:05 PM EDT, 1TVNewsAF (@1TVNewsAF) tweeted: 
BREAKING: #Taliban Spokeman: Presidential Palace, Ariana Hotel (CIA HQ) and Ministry of Defense were our targets #Kabul #Afghanistan #Kabul...

At 11:02 PM EDT, @ISAFmedia tweeted this:
We are monitoring the developing situation in #Kabul & are taking appropriate measures to safeguard #ISAF personnel.