Several killed in Afghan Defence Ministry attack

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The Independent Online

An Afghan soldier opened fire today inside the country's Defence Ministry, killing an unknown number of people, a ministry spokesman said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said insurgents infiltrated the ministry and planned the attack to coincide with the visit of the French defense minister — who they believed was meeting with officials inside the compound. Mujahid said there were suicide attackers in addition to gunmen.

French officials said the minister, Gerard Longuet, was not inside the ministry during the attack.

The assailant opened fire on his fellow soldiers in the ministry compound in Kabul and was killed in the ensuing shootout, spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said. He said there were other deaths but he did not know how many. He spoke by phone and was not inside the ministry.

The two accounts could not be immediately reconciled.

Reporters were not allowed inside the ministry after the shooting. Extra guards took up positions at the entrances to the compound and security forces closed the road, but the area appeared calm from the outside.

Azimi did not have any information about whether there was an explosion or suicide attackers involved.

French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet was not inside the ministry when the attack occurred, said Lt. Col. Eric de Lapresle, a spokesman for French forces in Afghanistan. He said Longuet was scheduled to meet with Afghan officials Monday but did not provide details of where or who he was to meet.

Longuet arrived yesterday and had been meeting with French troops in the east. He did not go to the south as previously reported, de Lapresle said. Some 3,850 French troops are deployed in Afghanistan as part of the Nato mission.

The shooting comes the same day that a protest against the arrest of a mullah in nearby Parwan province turned violent with protesters and police shooting at each other — killing at least one person, officials said.

The demonstration started over the arrest of a local mullah overnight in Charikar, the provincial capital, said provincial Police Chief Sher Ahmad Maladani. Armed men in the crowd started shooting and that police have not been able to regain control, Maladani said.

At least one man has been confirmed dead from the melee at the main hospital in Charikar, said hospital director Abdul Khalil Farhangi. He said most of the injuries are bullet wounds and five people are in comas. One police officer was among the wounded, along with three children, Farhangi.

Farhangi said he could still hear shooting outside the hospital and helicopters were patrolling overhead.

The mullah, Sayed Ahmad, was arrested by Afghan and Nato forces late Sunday along with two others, said Abdullah Adil, an Afghan police official who coordinates with Nato in Parwan.

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