KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Teams of insurgents firing rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons struck at the U.S. Embassy, NATO headquarters and other buildings in the heart of the Afghan capital Tuesday, raising fresh doubts about the Afghans' ability to secure their nation as U.S. and other foreign troops begin to withdraw.
Seven Afghans were killed and 15 wounded in the coordinated daylight attack, which sent foreigners dashing for cover and terrified the city from midday well into the night as U.S. helicopters buzzed overhead. No embassy or NATO staff members were hurt.
Late Tuesday, at least two gunmen remained holed up on the top floors of an apartment building from which they and other militants had attacked the heavily fortified embassy.
The militants' seeming ability to strike at will in the most heavily defended part of Kabul suggested that they may have had help from rogue elements in the Afghan security forces. The attacks also coincided with suicide bombings elsewhere in the capital - the first time insurgents have organized such a complex assault against multiple targets in separate parts of the city.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, though Kabul's deputy police chief said he thought an affiliated organization, the Haqqani network, carried it out.
The Taliban and related groups have staged more than a dozen assaults in Kabul this year, including three major attacks since June. That represents an increase from years past and is clearly intended to offset U.S. claims of weakening the insurgents.
on southern battlefields and through hundreds of night raids by special forces targeting their commanders.
The Obama administration declared that it wouldn't allow Tuesday's attack to deter the American mission in Afghanistan, warning the attackers that they would be relentlessly pursued.
Even so, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul canceled all trips in and out of Afghanistan for its diplomats, and suspended all travel within Afghanistan.
High blast walls ring the embassy compound, and there was little damage to the reinforced concrete buildings, many of which are surrounded by sandbags.
According to Afghan officials, the attack began just after noon when a car packed with insurgents was stopped at a checkpoint at Abdul Haq square, which is about 300 yards from the U.S. Embassy. There were a series of large explosions and the insurgents entered a nine-floor building that was under construction overlooking the embassy and the nearby NATO headquarters complex.
Four to five insurgents opened fire on the complex. There was a simultaneous barrage of explosions around the Wazir Akbar Khan area, near the U.S. Embassy and home to a number of other foreign missions. Explosions shook the neighborhood.
Three other insurgents attempted to carry out suicide attacks and all were killed. One was shot on the road leading from the capital to the airport, and the two others when they tried to attack Afghan police buildings in western Kabul, across the city from the embassy.
The bullets detonated one of the militants' explosives vest, wounding two police officers. Another militant detonated his vest at a nearby building, wounding two civilians.