Taleban attacks Spanish embassy

Members of the Afghan Crisis Response Unit arriving at the site of a Taleban attack in Kabul yesterday. Insurgents launched an attack on a Spanish embassy compound there, officials said.
Members of the Afghan Crisis Response Unit arriving at the site of a Taleban attack in Kabul yesterday. Insurgents launched an attack on a Spanish embassy compound there, officials said.PHOTO: REUTERS

Gunshots heard following loud blast which shook diplomatic district in Afghan capital

KABUL • Insurgents launched an attack on a Spanish embassy compound in Kabul yesterday (Fri), Afghan officials said, following reports of gunfire and a massive car bomb detonated by a suicide bomber in the centre of the city. Heavy fighting was ongoing at press time, with the Taleban claiming responsibility for the attack.

At least seven people were taken to a hospital operated by the aid group Emergency, located around 700m from the Spanish embassy, according to a tweet from the organisation, but there were no other reports of damage or casualties.

“The embassy has been attacked. We are gathering details,” a foreign ministry spokesman in Madrid told Agence France-Presse, information that was confirmed by the Kabul police.

Officials said police were on the scene.

At least seven insurgents appeared to be involved in the attack.

The embassy is in Sherpur, in central Kabul, where the car bomb attack took place during rush hour yesterday evening. The blast was followed by bursts of gunfire in an assault that comes as the resurgent Taleban escalates attacks against government and foreign targets.

A Taleban spokesman said the attack targeted “an invader’s guest house”. However, it was not immediately clear if the guest house was on the embassy premises.

Spanish news agency Europa Press reported that President Mariano Rajoy had been informed, citing government sources.

Spain had nine troops left in Afghanistan as of December 2015this month, according to official Nato figures.

The blast, which interrupted several months of relative calm in the Afghan capital, came after President Ashraf Ghani returned from a regional peace conference in Islamabad aimed at reviving stalled peace talks with Taleban militants.

The attack follows a 27-hour Taleban siege this week of Kandahar airport, the largest military installation in southern Afghanistan, in which at least 50 people died, including women and children.

Eleven suicide attackers on Tuesday breached the high-security complex which also houses a joint Nato-Afghan base, taking families hostage and triggering pitched firefights with soldiers.

As the country grappled with the aftermath of the attack, its spy chief on Thursday quit his post, laying bare disagreements with President Ghani over his diplomatic outreach to Pakistan.

The resignation of Mr Rahmatullah Nabil highlights the domestic backlash Mr Ghani faces over his attempts to repair strained relations with Islamabad, long blamed for nurturing the Taleban.

But Mr Ghani has staked considerable political capital in advocating bonhomie with the neighbour, saying it was a necessary partner in restarting peace talks aimed at ending Afghanistan’s long war.

Afghan social media was flooded with angry attacks on the government, with many pointing to headlines in Pakistani newspapers welcoming Mr Nabil’s departure. There was sharp criticism from politicians as well.

“Pakistan always wanted Nabil to go and it happened,” said Ms Shakiba Hashemi, a member of Parliament from the southern city of Kandahar.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2015, with the headline 'Taleban attacks Spanish embassy'. Print Edition | Subscribe