Suicide attackers battled security forces outside Afghanistan's presidential palace Tuesday in an attack on one of the most secure areas of the Afghan capital, which Taliban have claimed responsibility for.
Half a dozen explosions rocked the gate leading into the presidential palace following at least 45 minutes of on-and-off small arms fire in Kabul.
Gunfire started around 6.30 a.m. inside a heavily guarded area near the east gate leading to the palace next to the Afghan Ministry of Defense and the former Ariana Hotel. US defence officials confirmed that the area was used by the CIA.
Kabul Police Chief Gen. Mohamad Ayub Salangi said three or four gunmen emerged from their SUV and opened fire after being stopped by security forces while attempting to use fake documents to pass through a checkpoint. All gunmen were killed, and one palace security guard was wounded, he said.
A car bomb then exploded as it tried to enter the compound.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid sent a text-message statement claiming responsibility for the attack, saying "we brought death to the enemy". In an emailed message he later claimed all three buildings had been targeted, and that the attack came “near the Ariana Hotel, the important CIA base, and also the presidential palace and Ministry of Defense.” There was no immediate indication that any of the buildings had been hit in the attack, although smoke could be seen rising from the hotel area.
The palace is in a large fortified region of Kabul that also includes the US Embassy and the headquarters for the Nato-led coalition forces.
Journalists hiding behind a religious shrine during the attack had to pull a school boy off the street who had been caught in the open fire on his way to school.
The U.S. Embassy cancelled all consular appointments and advised American citizens in Kabul to stay indoors but had no immediate comment on the incident.
Whilst the Taliban have said that they are willing to open peace talks with the US and Afghanistan government, they have not renounced violence and attacks have continued.