Taliban Touts Kabul Siege as Sign of Strength, Reach
Taliban leaders hailed Thursday the marathon siege in Kabul's diplomatic enclave that held off Western and Afghan forces for some 20 hours as proof of their strength and reach.
It was the longest and most audacious militant attack on Kabul in the decade since the Taliban were ousted from power and a stark reminder of insurgents' resources and reach as Western forces start to return home.
US ambassador Ryan Crocker said about six or seven rockets had hit inside the embassy perimeter during the early hours of the attack, launched early on Tuesday afternoon, but said the range meant they had not posed a serious threat.
"They were firing from at least 800 meters away and with an RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] that's harassment. That's not an attack," he said in an interview transcript handed out to journalists in Kabul.
The insurgents had holed up in a multi-storey building still under construction and launched their attack by firing rockets towards the US and other embassies and the headquarters of NATO-led foreign forces.
Three suicide bombers also targeted police buildings in other parts of the city, but the embassy district assault was the most spectacular.
Afghan security forces backed by NATO and Afghan attack helicopters fought floor-by-floor in the 13-storey building, which the six insurgents appeared to have booby trapped.
They had arrived covered in women's robes in a car packed with explosives, and entered the high-rise after shooting a security guard.
"As our country is traditional and Islamic, there is a special respect for women and the enemies exploited this to get to the building," Kabul police chief Ayoub Salangi said.
The group were armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers, AK-47 rifles and suicide bomb vests, a Taliban spokesman said.