Taliban attack on Karzai HQ a 'huge propaganda victory'
Gun and bomb assault on president's Kabul palace is 'audacious', but does it mean Taliban are divided?
THE Taliban attacked President Hamid Karzai's palace and other targets in Kabul for nearly two hours this morning in what Sky News describes as "one of the most brazen assaults in the capital" since Karzai was nearly assassinated in April 2008.
On that occasion militants targeted a military parade, but today's attack was three-pronged. Having infiltrated what had been considered one of Kabul's most secure areas, the Taliban detonated a car bomb outside the presidential palace while launching simultaneous attacks against the ministry of defence and the former Ariana hotel, which houses a CIA station.
According to the BBC, the attack began at approximately 6.30am local time with Taliban fighters assaulting the palace in the central district of Shash Darak. The operation was clearly well-planned: militants opened fire on the palace's eastern gate just as dozens of journalists were gathering for a news conference with President Karzai. BBC correspondent Bilal Sarwary was one of the reporters and described how they were "forced to run for cover as bullets flew overhead". As many as 14 explosions were also heard during the firefight, one of which was thought to be a car bomb.
Sky News claims that four gunmen wearing military fatigues and travelling in a car "fitted with radio antennae to make it look like an ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] vehicle" tried to bluff their way into the palace using false identity papers. When they were challenged the shooting began, although it is not known if their car was the one that exploded. Afghan police later reported that all four gunmen had been killed while a palace security guard was wounded.
The Taliban later claimed responsibility for the audacious attack in in a text message sent to Kabul reporters. "Today at 6.30am a number of suicide bombers attacked the presidential palace, defence ministry and the Ariana hotel," said spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, who also said the assault had "brought death to the enemy".
The Nato-led ISAF tweeted that the Afghan National Security Force had "handled everything well" and in a second tweet added: "Taliban's attack in Kabul today clearly shows division within their ranks, more of a problem for Taliban than for the Afghans or Coalition."
But in Sarwary's estimation the attack was "a huge propaganda victory for the insurgents as they have managed to infiltrate one of the safest places in the country".