Death toll in Kabul attack rises to 43: health ministry
Kabul, Dec 25 (AFP) An hours-long gun and suicide attack on a Kabul government compound killed at least 43 people, the health ministry said Tuesday, making it one of the deadliest assaults on the Afghan capital this year.
No militant group has claimed responsibility for the attack, which caps a bloody year for Afghanistan as civilians and security forces are slaughtered in record numbers.
Another 10 people were wounded in Monday’s raid on a site where the Ministry of Public Works and other offices are located, spokesman Waheed Majroh said.
Gunmen stormed the compound mid-afternoon after detonating a car bomb at the entrance, sending terrified government workers running for their lives. Some jumped from windows several floors high to escape the militants.
Hundreds more were trapped inside buildings as heavily armed security forces swarmed the area, engaging in a fierce gun battle with the attackers.
At least four militants, including the suicide bomber, were killed and more than 350 people freed, officials said. Most of the victims were civilians, who have borne the brunt of the 17-year war.
It was the deadliest assault in the Afghan capital since a suicide bomber blew himself up in the middle of a religious gathering last month, killing at least 55 people.
The raid followed a tumultuous few days in Afghanistan where officials are reeling from US President Donald Trump’s plan to slash troop numbers, which many fear could harm efforts to end the conflict with the Taliban.
It also comes after a major security shake-up in Kabul that has placed staunch anti-Taliban and Pakistan veterans in charge of the police and military.
While there has been no official announcement of a US drawdown, the mere suggestion of the United States reducing its military presence has rattled the Afghan capital and potentially undermined peace efforts.
General Scott Miller, the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, said Sunday he had not received orders to pull forces out of the country.
Trump’s decision apparently came Tuesday as US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad met with the Taliban in Abu Dhabi, part of efforts to bring the militants to the negotiating table with Kabul.
Many Afghans are worried that President Ashraf Ghani’s fragile unity government would collapse if US troops pulled out, enabling the Taliban to return to power and potentially sparking another bloody civil war.
Militants have previously attacked government ministries and departments because they are often poorly defended and seen as soft targets. (AFP)