KABUL (Reuters) - Heavily armed insurgents stormed a guesthouse in the diplomatic quarter of Kabul late on Tuesday night and were still battling Afghan security forces more than two hours after the assault began.
Police did not identify the guesthouse or its occupants. Afghan and Western security sources said the target could be a compound owned by a prominent political family and used by foreigners, or a building next to it.
“A group of insurgents has entered a guesthouse in the Wazir Akbar Khan area,” Kabul police chief spokesman Ebadullah Karimi said. “The fight is ongoing.”
There was no immediate word on casualties.
Representatives of the Taliban, which has been waging an Islamist insurgency in Afghanistan since being toppled by a U.S.-led coalition in 2001, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Teams of elite Afghan security forces were deployed to the guesthouse area, an upscale part of the capital where many embassies and government buildings are located.
Hours after the attack began, it was still unclear how many insurgents were involved and police vehicles were seen setting up roadblocks around the diplomatic quarter to prevent the insurgents from escaping the area.
Over a dozen explosions that sounded like rockets were counted during the attack and gunfire continued after midnight.
Several of the more powerful blasts heard could have been caused by suicide bombers detonating their vests, an Afghan security source said.
The Afghan capital has been hit by a series of high-profile attacks on foreigners and government targets over the past two weeks.
The Taliban targeted the Park Palace hotel on May 13, killing over a dozen people. The majority of casualties were Afghan civilians, but an American, a British-Afghan national, four Indians, an Italian and a Kazakh were also among the dead.
NATO’s 13-year combat mission officially ended in December and the small contingent that remains in the country is mostly focused on training Afghan security forces.
Afghan civilians, however, are bearing the brunt of the bloody conflict that has escalated around the country as foreign troops have withdrawn.
Following the deadly hotel attack two weeks ago, an EU vehicle was bombed a few days later, near Kabul’s airport in a blast that killed a British security contractor and at least two Afghan civilians.
Last week, at least five Afghans were killed and dozens more wounded by a car bomb that detonated in the parking lot of the Afghan Ministry of Justice.
Writing by Jessica Donati; editing by Mark Heinrich and G Crosse