In-synch blitz: Multiple attacks herald Taliban ‘spring offensive’

Published: April 16, 2012

Special forces troops walk towards the scene of attacks in Kabul on April 15, 2012. PHOTO: AFP

KABUL: Heavy explosions, rockets and gunfire rattled Kabul on Sunday as the Taliban launched a ‘spring offensive’ with multiple attacks targeting Western embassies, Nato’s headquarters and the parliament building.    

The assault, one of the most serious on the capital since US-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban regime in 2001, highlighted the ability of militants to strike the heavily-guarded diplomatic zone even after more than 10 years of war.

Heavy fighting erupted again more than five hours after the Taliban first struck, as dusk was falling over the capital. Several Afghan parliamentarians joined security forces repelling attackers from a roof near parliament.

Large explosions shook the diplomatic enclave of Kabul. Billows of black smoke rose from embassies while rocket-propelled grenades whizzed overhead. Heavy gunfire could be heard from many directions as Afghan security forces tried to repel Taliban fighters.

Taliban fighters, some of them dressed in women’s burqas, also launched simultaneous assaults in three other provinces of Afghanistan.

In the eastern city of Jalalabad, they attacked a  foreign force base near a school and a blast went off near the airport.

The ministry of interior said 19 insurgents, including suicide bombers, died in the encounters across the country and two were captured. Fourteen police officers and nine civilians were wounded.

Japan’s Kyodo news agency said three rockets landed in the Japanese embassy but nobody was hurt and staff had evacuated to a nearby air raid shelter. Militants also attacked government buildings in Lugar province, and a police facility in the town of Gardez in Paktya province.

Attackers also fired rockets at the parliament building in the west of Kabul. Afghan media said fighters stormed the Star Hotel complex near the presidential palace and Iranian embassy. The hotel’s windows were blown out and smoke billowed from the building.

Haqqanis involved?               

Meanwhile, US ambassador Ryan Crocker said it was unlikely the Afghan Taliban had the capacity to launch Sunday’s attacks on its own, and speculated that the Haqqani network – whose fighters are based in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area – were involved.

“The Taliban are really good at issuing statements. Less good at actually fighting,” he told CNN. “My guess, based on previous experience here, is this is a set of Haqqani network operations out of North Waziristan and the Pakistani tribal areas. Frankly, I don’t think the Taliban is good enough.”

Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told Reuters initial findings showed that the Haqqanis were involved in Sunday’s attacks. The Haqqani network is one of the most divisive issues between Washington and Islamabad and evidence that the Haqqanis were behind the latest attacks in Afghanistan could hamper efforts to patch up US-Pakistan ties between the strategic allies.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar expressed deep concerns over the attacks in Afghanistan. “Pakistan strongly condemns terrorism in all forms and has consistently encouraged dialogue to resolve issues in Afghanistan,” Khar said.

Presidential lockdown 

President Hamid Karzai was moved to a safe area and his palace went into lockdown during the attacks in Kabul including a failed attempt to target one of his deputies, officials said.

The embattled president was discussing the budget with a group of lawmakers when explosions and gunfire rocked three locations in the capital, one of his aides said.

Nato hails Afghan response

Nato forces in Afghanistan hailed the response of Afghan security forces to the series of attacks on Kabul, labelling the assaults ‘largely ineffective’.

“I am enormously proud of how quickly Afghan security forces responded to today’s attacks in Kabul,” said General John Allen, commander of Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (Isaf).

Published in The Express Tribune, April 16th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (6)

  • Its (still) Econonmy Stupid
    Apr 16, 2012 - 5:11AM

    Spring has different meaning for Arabs and AfPak area. Non state actors at work, die and their handlers are safe and celebrating.

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  • syed
    Apr 16, 2012 - 10:18AM

    @Its (still) Econonmy Stupid

    I DON’T AGREE …..THEIR HANDLERS RECENTLY DIED IN numbers of drone strikes…….

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  • Analyzer
    Apr 16, 2012 - 10:18AM

    Please correct it to sandal wearing farmers. Thanks.

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  • Sultan Mahmood
    Apr 16, 2012 - 12:51PM

    We found 2 of them alive, if we find any evidence that they came from Pakistan, we will not let you go easy this time dear paki, mark my words!!!!Recommend

  • Head Shot
    Apr 16, 2012 - 3:07PM

    Alive or not alive … spring means blood spring for Taliban …

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  • Jamset Ram C
    Apr 20, 2012 - 2:02AM

    U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker explains that the Taliban are not very good at fighting. However, the facts show something a little different. The Taliban has held down the world powers for eleven years, many thousands of American troops have been lost, and America has been forced to start looking for a Vietnam type escape. Additionally, the Taliban has just made a highly successfuI attack on Kabul, and other Provinces. In view of the fact that U.S. troops were too scared to come out of their barracks and left it to the Afghans, I think we should all be grateful for the fact that the Taliban are not very good fighters. What could they have achieved if they had been good fighters with Western type equipment?
    Putting this aside, General Allan has just congratulated the Afghan forces for doing a job his troops obviously could not do. However, he does not mention that he and his buddies have wasted 2,5 trillion dollars creating this Afghan debacle. If they had just given the money to the Afghan people all 32 million of them would have received $78,125.00 each. Who would want to fight a war with that kind of money in their bank account? Unfortunately, in view of the corrupt Kabul Government, appointed by America, I doubt if the general population would have received very much of the $2.5 trillion.

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