Taliban suicide bomber, gunmen attack Afghan parliament

Taliban Offensive Hits Kabul With Parliament Attack


KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- A Taliban suicide bomber struck the entrance to the Afghan parliament on Monday and gunmen tried to storm the heavily guarded compound, setting off a gunbattle with police that left two people dead as lawmakers were meeting inside to vote on the appointment of a new defense minister.

Afghan security forces managed to repel the attack, killing all seven gunmen and ensuring that no members of parliament were harmed. But the audacious assault came as the Taliban captured two districts in as many days in the country's north, displaying their ability to operate on multiple fronts.

Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said the attack began with a car bomb explosion near the entrance to parliament. Gunmen then attempted to storm the compound but were pushed back by security forces and eventually corralled into a nearby building that was under construction.

Sediqqi later said all seven attackers were killed by police and that no members of parliament were harmed. "It is over now," he said.

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Taliban suicide bomber, gunmen attack Afghan parliament
Afghan firefighters work to put out a fire at the site of a suicide an attack on the Afghan parliament building in Kabul on June 22, 2015. Taliban militants attacked the Afghan parliament on June 22, with gunfire and explosions rocking the building, sending lawmakers running for cover in chaotic scenes relayed live on television.The insurgents tried to storm the complex after triggering a car bomb but were repelled and have taken position in a partially-constructed building nearby, officials said about the ongoing attack. All MPs were safely evacuated after the attack, which came as the Afghan president's nominee for the crucial post of defence minister was to be introduced in parliament. AFP PHOTO / Wakil Kohsar (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)
Afghan security personnel and bystanders look on as black smoke billows from the Afghan Parliament building in Kabul on June 22, 2015, during an attack in the Afghan capital. Taliban militants attacked the Afghan parliament on June 22, with gunfire and explosions rocking the building, sending lawmakers running for cover in chaotic scenes relayed live on television.The insurgents tried to storm the complex after triggering a car bomb but were repelled and have taken position in a partially-constructed building nearby, officials said about the ongoing attack. All MPs were safely evacuated after the attack, which came as the Afghan president's nominee for the crucial post of defence minister was to be introduced in parliament. AFP PHOTO / SHAH Marai (Photo credit should read SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
Afghan police and security personnel inspect the scene of a suicide attack by Taliban militants on the Afghan parliament building in Kabul on June 22, 2015. Taliban militants attacked the Afghan parliament on June 22, with gunfire and explosions rocking the building, sending lawmakers running for cover in chaotic scenes relayed live on television.The insurgents tried to storm the complex after triggering a car bomb but were repelled and have taken position in a partially-constructed building nearby, officials said about the ongoing attack. All MPs were safely evacuated after the attack, which came as the Afghan president's nominee for the crucial post of defence minister was to be introduced in parliament. AFP PHOTO / Wakil Kohsar (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)
Afghan security personnel arrive at the site of an attack in front of The Parliament Building in Kabul on June 22, 2015. Taliban militants attacked the Afghan parliament on June 22, with gunfire and explosions rocking the building, sending lawmakers running for cover in chaotic scenes relayed live on television.The insurgents tried to storm the complex after triggering a car bomb but were repelled and have taken position in a partially-constructed building nearby, officials said about the ongoing attack. All MPs were safely evacuated after the attack, which came as the Afghan president's nominee for the crucial post of defence minister was to be introduced in parliament. AFP PHOTO / SHAH Marai (Photo credit should read SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
Afghan security personnel take position at the site of an attack in front of The Parliament Building in Kabul on June 22, 2015. Taliban militants attacked the Afghan parliament on June 22, with gunfire and explosions rocking the building, sending lawmakers running for cover in chaotic scenes relayed live on television.The insurgents tried to storm the complex after triggering a car bomb but were repelled and have taken position in a partially-constructed building nearby, officials said about the ongoing attack. All MPs were safely evacuated after the attack, which came as the Afghan president's nominee for the crucial post of defence minister was to be introduced in parliament. AFP PHOTO / SHAH Marai (Photo credit should read SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
Afghan security personnel walk along a street as smoke rises from the direction of the Afghan parliament building during an attack by Taliban militants in Kabul on June 22, 2015. Taliban militants attacked the Afghan parliament on June 22, with gunfire and explosions rocking the building, sending lawmakers running for cover in chaotic scenes relayed live on television.The insurgents tried to storm the complex after triggering a car bomb but were repelled and have taken position in a partially-constructed building nearby, officials said about the ongoing attack. All MPs were safely evacuated after the attack, which came as the Afghan president's nominee for the crucial post of defence minister was to be introduced in parliament. AFP PHOTO / Wakil Kohsar (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)
Afghan security personnel gather at the site of an attack in front of The Parliament Building in Kabul on June 22, 2015. Taliban militants attacked the Afghan parliament on June 22, with gunfire and explosions rocking the building, sending lawmakers running for cover in chaotic scenes relayed live on television.The insurgents tried to storm the complex after triggering a car bomb but were repelled and have taken position in a partially-constructed building nearby, officials said about the ongoing attack. All MPs were safely evacuated after the attack, which came as the Afghan president's nominee for the crucial post of defence minister was to be introduced in parliament. AFP PHOTO / SHAH Marai (Photo credit should read SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
An Afghan security personnel runs at the site of an attack in front of Parliament building in Kabul on June 22, 2015. Taliban militants attacked the Afghan parliament on June 22, with gunfire and explosions rocking the building, sending lawmakers running for cover in chaotic scenes relayed live on television.The insurgents tried to storm the complex after triggering a car bomb but were repelled and have taken position in a partially-constructed building nearby, officials said about the ongoing attack. All MPs were safely evacuated after the attack, which came as the Afghan president's nominee for the crucial post of defence minister was to be introduced in parliament. AFP PHOTO / SHAH Marai (Photo credit should read SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
An Afghan security official runs at the site of an attack in front of Parliament building in Kabul on June 22, 2015. Taliban militants attacked the Afghan parliament on June 22, with gunfire and explosions rocking the building, sending lawmakers running for cover in chaotic scenes relayed live on television.The insurgents tried to storm the complex after triggering a car bomb but were repelled and have taken position in a partially-constructed building nearby, officials said about the ongoing attack. All MPs were safely evacuated after the attack, which came as the Afghan president's nominee for the crucial post of defence minister was to be introduced in parliament. AFP PHOTO / SHAH Marai (Photo credit should read SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
An Afghan security official gestures as he runs at the site of an attack in front of Parliament building in Kabul on June 22, 2015. Taliban militants attacked the Afghan parliament on June 22, with gunfire and explosions rocking the building, sending lawmakers running for cover in chaotic scenes relayed live on television.The insurgents tried to storm the complex after triggering a car bomb but were repelled and have taken position in a partially-constructed building nearby, officials said about the ongoing attack. All MPs were safely evacuated after the attack, which came as the Afghan president's nominee for the crucial post of defence minister was to be introduced in parliament. AFP PHOTO / SHAH Marai (Photo credit should read SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
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Sediqqi said a woman the a 10-year-old girl were killed, and Health Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ismail Kahousi said 31 civilians were wounded in the parliament attack, including two women and two children.

Sidiqa Mubarez, a member of parliament, said the building was rocked by the large explosion and that some people were wounded by flying glass. She said the explosion happened shortly after Masoom Stanekzai had arrived to be confirmed as defense minister, a post that has been vacant for nine months. The vote was delayed by the attack.

The Taliban claimed the attack in a statement to media.

An Associated Press reporter who witnessed part of the assault heard heavy gunfire outside parliament and saw black smoke billowing from the entrance as ambulances raced to the scene. The reporter later heard sporadic shooting from the building where the militants were said to be holed up.

Just down the street, hundreds of children were evacuated from a school. Parents could be seen racing toward the building, shouting out the names of their children.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani strongly condemned the assault.

"Targeting innocent people in the holy month of Ramadan is a clear act of hostility against the religion of Islam," his office said in a statement, adding that the perpetrators "are criminals who are bound by no creed or religion."

The attack on parliament came hours after the Taliban seized a second district in the northern Kunduz province, which has borne the brunt of their annual warm-weather offensive.

Mohammad Yusuf Ayubi, head of the provincial council, said the insurgents attacked the district of Dashti Archi from four sides and took full control of the area early Monday. He said local forces suffered casualties but did not have a precise count.

He said around 150,000 residents of the district were trapped by the fighting.

The Taliban confirmed that they had captured the district, as well as ammunition and four tanks, in an emailed statement.

The Taliban seized control of the Chardara district in Kunduz on Sunday. The insurgents attacked the provincial capital, also called Kunduz, in a surprise attack in April and nearly captured it before Afghan forces pushed them back.

Afghan forces have struggled to fend off Taliban advances since the U.S. and NATO combat mission officially concluded at the end of last year. More than 2,300 Afghan soldiers, police and pro-government fighters have been killed since the start of the year -- more than the total number of U.S. troops killed since the 2001 invasion that ended Taliban rule.

The war on the Taliban has also been hampered by months of bickering between President Ashraf Ghani and his election rival turned Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, which has repeatedly delayed the appointment of a defense minister.

The parliament's mandate expired on Monday, with no date yet for new elections. Ghani's office said in a statement Friday that he would announce a date for new elections within a month and that the assembly could continue meeting until they are held.

It was not immediately clear if the Taliban attack was timed to coincide with the confirmation vote or the expiration of the assembly's mandate.


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