Taliban Militants Target Afghan Intelligence Center
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In Afghanistan today, Taliban militants staged a brazen attack in the heart of Kabul. Their target was the headquarters of the National Directorate of Security or NDS - it's Afghanistan's equivalent of the FBI.
As NPR's Sean Carberry reports, the attack began with a suicide bombing, then five militants tried to storm the compound.
(SOUNDBITE OF SIRENS AND GUNFIRE)
SEAN CARBERRY, BYLINE: It was shortly after noon in the Afghan capital when an explosion rocked the center of the city. Then gunfire rang out. People ran for cover. Security guards barricaded the gates of nearby government offices.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: At this time, Camp Eggers is on lockdown.
CARBERRY: The explosion triggered a security warning at a nearby NATO compound. The blast radius stretched for blocks. Car parts were strewn all along the street. Shopkeepers - some hundreds of yards from the scene - swept away broken glass and shuttered their stores. Several people with light injuries made their way from the epicenter of the blast.
ATEF KHAN: (Foreign language spoken)
CARBERRY: Blood trickled down Atef Khan's face. He says he was driving by the NDS compound at the time of the attack. He ran from his damaged car and huddled at a nearby shop with other wounded people. While they prayed for the shooting to stop, he says they called relatives to say goodbye. Government spokesman Sediq Sediqi gave reporters the official version of the assault.
SEDIQ SEDIQI: One person with one vehicle full of explosive, they were able to explode the vehicle near the gate, so that the other five could go inside. But fortunately, they were identified. All of them were killed. Unfortunately, we lost one soldier from NDS.
SHAFIQULLAH TAHIRI: (Foreign language spoken)
CARBERRY: Shafiqullah Tahiri, the spokesman for the intelligence service, said the assailants had a second minivan. It was packed with AK-47s, grenades and explosives set on a timer. The NDS bomb squad discovered the van and defused the explosives with just three minutes to spare.
TAHIRI: (Foreign language spoken)
CARBERRY: Tahiri said the explosives were some sort of water gel material that the security forces haven't seen before. He said he doesn't know where they could have come from. The Taliban were quick to claim responsibility for the attack. Sediqi acknowledged that Kabul and other Afghan cities are still vulnerable to terrorist attacks, but he said that despite the loss of a security officer and the injuries to more than 30 people, he considers the response to today's attack a success.
SEDIQI: If even they organize a very severe attack, they can be killed in a matter of minutes, and that was showed today by the security forces.
KHAN: (Foreign language spoken)
CARBERRY: But none of the shopkeepers or victims, like Atef Khan, had anything positive to say about the day's events.
Sean Carberry, NPR News, Kabul.