‘Brazen’ Taliban attacks Afghan parliament

A Taliban suicide bomber and six gunmen attacked the Afghan parliament as lawmakers met to consider a new defence minister, and another district in the volatile north fell to the militants as they intensified a summer offensive.

‘Brazen’ Taliban attacks Afghan parliament

The brazen assault on the symbolic centre of power, along with territorial gains elsewhere, highlight how Nato-trained Afghan security forces are struggling to cope with worsening militant violence.

Fighting has spiralled since the departure of most foreign forces from Afghanistan at the end of last year. The insurgents are pushing to take territory more than 13 years after US-led military intervention toppled them from power.

Yesterday’s attack began as lawmakers met with the new acting defence minister, Masoom Stanikzai. A Taliban fighter detonated a car loaded with explosives outside parliament gates, said Ebadullah Karimi, spokesman for Kabul police, raising questions about how the driver got through several security checkpoints.

Six gunmen took up positions in a building near parliament, he said, but never breached the compound’s gates. Essa Khan, a soldier inside the parliamentary compound when the attack took place, said he shot dead three militants as they tried to storm inside before killing the rest in a prolonged gun battle that also involved other troops.

“Everywhere there was smoke and dust,” Khan told Reuters. “I knew that it was the Taliban from the first moment. I grabbed this gun and shot three of them dead,” added the 28-year-old, whose actions have played prominently on Afghan media in a rare PR success for the beleaguered armed forces.

Kabul police chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi said all lawmakers were safe. Footage showed the speaker sitting calmly and legislators leaving the building, engulfed in dust and smoke, without panicking.

A woman was killed and around 30 civilians wounded in the attack, said Rahimi. He said the attackers were armed with assault rifles and rocket propelled grenades. Some lawmakers’ bodyguards fired sporadically amid the attack, hampering the Afghan force response.

Police will investigate how the attackers got so close to parliament. “We have appointed a delegation to find the weak point or points and report it back to us,” Rahimi said.

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