Taliban attacks Afghan election HQ

Militants open fire on Kabul’s election commission ahead of Saturday’s vote

The precarious political future of Afghanistan was violently exposed again as explosions and gunfire were heard inside the Afghan election commission compound.

The latest in a series of attacks ahead of this week’s presidential elections saw militant insurgents disguised as women wearing burqas enter a building close to the headquarters of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) in Kabul and open fire on the building using automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades.

The Taliban, which has repeatedly threatened to disrupt the upcoming elections, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Police initially said that four suicide bombers were killed after a four-hour stand-off, including a series of gun battles.

The Deputy Interior Minister, Mohammed Ayub Salangi, later upped the death toll to five militants, adding that two policeman were injured in the firefights. No other casualties were reported.

Dozens of people were said to have taken refuge in the basement of the main area of the compound where the IEC is based. The militants were unable to breach the heavily fortified area, but two warehouses were hit and set on fire.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) also reported that its nearby base was hit by small arms fire. Afghan security forces were said to be in control of the compound by last night.

Kabul International Airport, which is also close to the compound, was closed for a number of hours yesterday over security fears.

The owner of the building infiltrated by insurgents, Haji Mohibullah, told Reuters that the property had been under guard and the attackers may have evaded security. “I had three guards, two outside and one inside, but I don’t know what is happening right now. The attackers were wearing women’s burqas,” he said.

The attack was the second such incident in a matter of days in the city. On Tuesday, the Taliban struck another IEC regional office. In that assault, a suicide bomber detonated his vehicle outside while two gunmen stormed the building, killing four people and trapping dozens inside.

The incidents, alongside the increasing number of attacks and bombings in recent months, have raised fears that violence will undermine the credibility of the elections next Saturday, which are being held to replace the outgoing President Hamid Karzi, in what would be the first democratic transition of power.

The Taliban now appears to be targeting civilian installations, which are less heavily fortified than political targets. Saturday’s attack came less than 24 hours after militants had stormed a guesthouse in the city used by a US-based aid group called Roots of Peace.

A suicide car bomber detonated his explosives in front of the four-storey building, then four gunmen rushed into the compound. All four were killed in an ensuing firefight, as well as a 10-year-old Afghan girl who was caught in the crossfire.

Last week, 18 policemen were killed in an attack in eastern Afghanistan. Nine other people were killed, including four foreign nationals, in a separate attack on an upmarket hotel in Kabul, which reportedly caused two international agencies to pull their election observers out of the country.

Abdul Satar Saadat, the chairman of the Electoral Complaints Commission, said election officials were worried by militant attacks. On Saturay he urged the government to step up security. However, both the UN and EU election observer missions in Afghanistan said that they would continue their operations in order to allow the Afghan people to make their voices heard.

Speaking to The Independent on Sunday, Thijs Berman, the head of the EU election assessment team in Kabul, said that violence would put the future of the country in danger but that the “high risk of violence” was not unexpected when the mission began.

“Anyone who tries to interfere by violence during this process is putting the peace and stability of Afghanistan in danger,” he said. “The future stability of this country depends on an outcome in these elections that can be seen as credible and acceptable. Violence and intimidation may deter some people, but I hear from many of them that, regardless of the threat or potential threat, they want to cast their ballots.

“They are sensitive to the violence, but they are used to hiding their feelings on it.”

He added: “I just hope the Afghan authorities will be able to protect the thousands of Afghans who courageously organised these elections.”

UNAMA condemned the attack, stating that electoral institutions should not be targets.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West, performing in New York last week, has been the subject of controversy as rock's traditional headline slot at Glastonbury is lost once again
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Life and Style
Drinking - often heavily - is a running theme throughout HBO's Game of Thrones adaptation
food + drink
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living