Monday, December 18, 2017

Eight-hour gun battle leaves two Afghan officers dead

KABUL, Afghanistan — At least two police officers were killed Monday when five gunmen armed with suicide vests and rocket-propelled grenades stormed the headquarters of the Kabul traffic police department, setting off a firefight that lasted more than eight hours, Afghan officials said.

It was the second brazen assault in less than a week in the Afghan capital, which has enjoyed a measure of safety compared with other parts of the country in recent years. While Islamist militants have staged such high-profile attacks before, the twin strikes against Afghan security installations suggest they are trying to undermine public confidence in the nation's security forces ahead of the departure of most foreign troops next year.

Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, which oversees the police, said the low death toll Monday should reassure Afghans that their forces are capable of defending the country against the Taliban.

Only two of the assailants managed to detonate their explosives at the entrance to headquarters, which is on the same road as the parliament building in western Kabul, Sediqqi said. The rest were later shot and killed by police commandos inside the complex, he said.

The attack began about 5.30 a.m., when residents who were preparing for the morning prayers said they saw a flash and heard a thundering explosion.

Police commandos, advised by NATO special forces, quickly surrounded the complex.

On Wednesday, a suicide bomber detonated a minivan packed with explosives outside one of the agency's heavily fortified compounds, killing one guard and injuring numerous civilians. Security forces shot and killed five other assailants before they could penetrate the compound.

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