All seven militants dead at end of Kabul airport attack

KABUL (REUTERS) - Seven Taleban insurgents
including suicide bombers attacked the main airport in the Afghan capital, Kabul, early on Monday, with explosions and gunfire heard near an area that also houses major foreign
military bases.

The attackers took up positions inside a partially constructed building next to the international airport, interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said, and fought Afghan
security forces for about four hours before the raid ended.

The Taleban claimed responsibility for the attack. Roads
were sealed off and flights out of the airport were quickly
cancelled, while incoming flights were diverted to the northern
city of Mazar-e-Sharif.

Attacks on the heavily guarded airport, used by civilians
and the military, are relatively rare and represent an ambitious
target for insurgents, with recent assaults staged against less
well-protected targets.

While it did not escalate dramatically, Monday's assault
will add to mounting concerns over how the 352,000-strong Afghan
security forces will cope with an intensifying insurgency once
most foreign combat troops leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

The airport is home to a major operational base for NATO-led
forces that have been fighting Taleban and other insurgents for
12 years and is bristling with soldiers and police, guard towers
and several lines of security checkpoints.

The attack began at about 4.30 am local time, soon after
morning prayers, and plumes of smoke were seen rising from
behind razor-wire fences at the airport. The fighting ended
about four hours later.

Police said the attack appeared to be centred on the
military side of the airport, to the west of the civilian
terminal, and that the attackers were dressed as police.

Kabul Police Chief General Mohammad Ayub Salangi told
Reuters that two suicide bombers blew themselves up and another five
were killed in the fighting. There appeared to be no casualties
among Afghan security forces or civilians.

Another police source said the attackers were wearing Afghan
Border Police uniforms in order to avoid detection before they
launched the assault.

Mr Salangi also said a van packed with explosives hidden under
vegetables was destroyed when security forces fired a
rocket-propelled grenade at it.

The Taleban said the attack was part of its 2013 "spring
offensive".

"Today ... there was a massive attack on the foreign
military side of Kabul airport," Taleban spokesman Zabihullah
Mujahid said in a text message sent to reporters.

"The enemy has suffered major casualties," he said. The
Islamist group often exaggerates the damage and casualties from
attacks on Afghan government and foreign military targets.

The Afghan Air Force, a number of logistics bases and the
International Security Assistance Force's (ISAF)
counter-narcotics office are also located in or near the
airport.

Embassies in the diplomatic zone in the centre of Kabul were
locked down and emergency alerts were heard ringing from several
Western missions and military bases soon after the attack began.

Two ISAF Black Hawk helicopters briefly circled the area
while Afghan soldiers fired at the building where the gunmen
were holed up, a witness said.

The attack follows other recent assaults on the
International Organisation for Migration in Kabul and the
International Committee of the Red Cross in the eastern city of
Jalalabad that killed four people.

In April 2011, a rogue Afghan air force officer shot and
killed eight US servicemen and a civilian contractor in the
worst attack at the airport since the war began following the Sept 11, 2001 attacks.

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