Taliban kill 7 in Kabul after Obama visit
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban struck back less than two hours after President Barack Obama left Afghanistan on Wednesday, targeting a foreigners’ housing compound with a suicide car bomb and militants disguised as women in an assault that killed at least seven people.
It was the second major assault in Kabul in less than three weeks and highlighted the Taliban’s continued ability to strike in the heavily guarded capital even when security had been tightened for Obama’s visit and Wednesday’s anniversary of the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in neighboring Pakistan.
The Taliban have warned they will officially start their annual “spring offensive” in Afghanistan today.
The offensive comes every year as the country’s snows melt, making both travel and fighting easier. It normally leads to a surge of militant attacks throughout the country as the Taliban attempt to retake lost territory and intimidate the Afghan government.
Obama arrived at Bagram Air Field late Tuesday, then traveled to Kabul by helicopter for a meeting with President Hamid Karzai in which they signed an agreement governing the U.S. presence after combat troops withdraw in 2014.
He also said that “the tide has turned” over the last three years.
“We broke the Taliban’s momentum. We’ve built strong Afghan security forces. We devastated al-Qaida’s leadership, taking out over 20 of their top 30 leaders,” he said.
But the violence that erupted about 90 minutes after his departure was a stark reminder of the difficult task still ahead for Afghan troops as they work to secure their country after U.S. and other foreign troops end their combat mission following nearly a decade at war.
The attack began with a suicide car bomb near the gate of the privately guarded compound, which sits off Jalalabad road — one of the main thoroughfares out of the city, Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi said.
Kabul Deputy Police Chief Daoud Amin said those killed in the blast included four people in a station wagon that was driving past the area, a passer-by and a Nepalese security guard. He didn’t have the identity of the seventh person killed. The Interior Ministry said 17 other people were wounded, many Afghan children on their way to school.
Karzai’s office said three Taliban took part in the attack: the suicide car bomber and two other gunmen who stormed the compound disguised in burqas — the head-to-toe robes worn by conservative Afghan women.
Explosions and gunfire shook the city for hours as Afghan soldiers rushed to the scene and battled the attackers.
A Western official who had been briefed on the assault said the attackers had breached the perimeter defense, around the compound’s parking areas, but had not gotten past a secondary security gate that protects the actual living areas. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
The area appeared to have calmed down by about 10 a.m. NATO said all the attackers had been killed.