Taliban Insurgents Attack Afghan Capital

By Stephen Jones
Stephen Jones
Stephen Jones
January 18, 2010 Updated: October 1, 2015

An Afghan security officer looks over a building where Taliban fighters were located after clashes between Taliban-linked militants and security forces in a market on Jan. 18, 2010 in Kabul, Afghanistan.  (Majid Saeedi/Getty Images)
An Afghan security officer looks over a building where Taliban fighters were located after clashes between Taliban-linked militants and security forces in a market on Jan. 18, 2010 in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Majid Saeedi/Getty Images)
In an audacious raid on the Afghan capital Monday, Taliban fighters setoff explosives and sparked gun battles in the heart of Kabul. Fighting took place outside the presidential palace and the Serena Hotel in the city center.

The Taliban said that 20 of its soldiers took part in the battle. According to a statement by the Afghan leadership, seven were killed—security forces gunned five of them and two others detonated themselves.

At least three Afghan security forces and two civilians died during the more than five hours of gun fighting and explosions, while more than 70 people were injured.

The first suicide bomb went off shortly before 10 a.m. outside of the country's central bank, next to the presidential palace. Minutes after the first blast, the armed militants took over a shopping mall near the presidential palace, and attacked the five star Serena Hotel.

While security forces were dealing with the threat from the shopping centre, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives outside the building, using a van he was driving that was painted as an ambulance.

Another bomb exploded outside the Cinema Pamir building, less than a mile from the Serena Hotel.

“The president condemns these terrorist attacks and has instructed the security entities to intensify security in the city and take action to arrest those responsible for these brutal and unpatriotic attacks,” said a statement from the office of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

During the time of attack, President Karzai was swearing in new cabinet ministers. Although the fights happened just 50 yards from the presidential palace, the insurgents didn’t manage to enter the president’s residence.

Monday’s attack in the most guarded place in Kabul was the boldest assault on the city in the last year. Although seven insurgents were killed, the attack in the heart of the capital might have succeeded in its role to strike fear and show off Taliban’s capabilities to assault even the most sensitive targets.

Last year in Aghanistan was the bloodiest since 2001 when a U.S-led invasion overthrew the Taliban government in the country.

In February 2009, more than 20 people died when Taliban insurgents attacked the building of the Ministry of Justice and other government offices. Eight months later, fighters attacked a hotel where U.N. employees were staying, killing six of them.

The bloody and carefully coordinated assault raises questions about the feasibility of President Karzai’s new initiative to turn the tide of the war.

The strategy, which Karzai plans to present at the international conference about Afghanistan in London later this month, would offer Taliban fighters reconciliation by laying down their weapons. The approach is backed by the Obama administration.