Attackers stormed buildings near the Presidential Palace in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Tuesday while President Hamid Karzai was getting ready to speak to reporters about potential peace talks with the Taliban.
The terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the attacks in which rebels detonated a car bomb and battled with security forced in the areas surrounding the Palace.
The buildings are in a large fortified area of downtown Kabul that also includes the US Embassy and the headquarters for the NATO-led coalition forces and where access is heavily restricted.
It houses Karzai’s residence and the BBC is reporting that the President was in the building at the time of the attack. A spokesman was not reached for comment.
The increased violence could underscore the peace efforts led by Karzai. The rebels have said that they are open to talks with the US and Afghanistan but have not renounced violence.
Gunfire started around 6:30 am inside a heavily guarded area near the east gate leading to the palace, located next to the Afghan Ministry of Defense and the former Ariana Hotel, which is used by the CIA.
Later on, a car bomb that was trying to enter the compound exploded. About 20 journalists who were awaiting Karzai’s remarks took cover behind a shrine, pulling along a boy who was walking down the street on his way to school and was caught in the gunfire.
Reuters is reporting that the “brazen attack” could derail the peace efforts since the Taliban is sending a clear message that they can still cause problems.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack with a text message. The militants had “brought death to the enemy” with a suicide attack, he said.
He later suggested in an emailed statement that all three buildings had been targeted, saying the attack came “near the Ariana Hotel, the important CIA base, and also the presidential palace and Ministry of Defense.”
Lt. Col. Frank Hoelzner, spokesman for the NATO coalition, said that the headquarters had not been affected by the attack.
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