Kabul Siege Ends With 14 Dead
Afghan authorities said Wednesday that the last two terrorists in a Taliban stand-off with security forces had been killed, ending a siege in Kabul that lasted 19 hours.
"The last attackers are dead and the fighting all over. There were six terrorists in the building and all are dead," Siddiq Siddiqi, an interior ministry spokesman, told AFP.
The attacks started Tuesday but dragged into a second day as armed men remained holed up in a high-rise construction site overlooking the US embassy and the headquarters of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Afghan security forces backed by NATO attack helicopters fought Taliban insurgents floor-by-floor in an unfinished high-rise in the centre of Kabul on Wednesday, more than 15 hours after the biggest terror insurgency in the Afghan capital began.
Before the high rise assault began, explosions interspersed with gunfire filled the afternoon on Tuesday and several rockets landed in the up market Wazir Akbar Khan district, near the British and other embassies.
Lieutenant Colonel Jimmie Cummings, an ISAF spokesman, said: "Nineteen (were) wounded, 11 killed, which includes three children." Cummings told AFP the dead were all civilians.
Interior ministry spokesman Siddiq Siddiqui previously said that three police were also killed, taking the overall toll to 14.
Cummings added: "We also have six (ISAF troops) wounded in action since Tuesday".
"Three of them were US which happened during the main engagement off the ISAF compound... the other three were in support during clearing (of the main building)."
The death toll covered the main attack plus several much smaller related ones which took place elsewhere in Kabul Tuesday.
Siddiqui said the siege, which has raised fresh serious questions about security in Kabul, was now over.
"The last attackers are dead and the fighting all over. There were six terrorists in the building and all are dead," he told AFP.
It is believed to be the first time a Taliban attack on Kabul - seen as relatively safe compared to many other parts of Afghanistan - has taken place across two days.
The coordinated assault is the latest sign that security has deteriorated sharply in the city where insurgents have staged increasingly brazen raids on Western targets.
"The scale of today's attack is unprecedented," said Andrew Exum, fellow at the Center for a New American Security.
"There was almost certainly either a break-down in security among the Afghans with responsibility for Kabul or an intelligence failure."
On the day the attack started, a US Senate panel approved a $1.6 billion cut in projected US funding for Afghan security forces, part of a significant reduction in outlays for training and equipping Afghan army and police expected in the coming years.