KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan's election commission began auditing ballots Thursday following a U.S.-brokered deal between the two presidential contenders while a brazen attack on the Kabul airport underscored the dangers the country still faces in its troubled democracy.
The pre-dawn rocket attack on Kabul International Airport temporarily shut down the facility and set off a gunbattle with security forces in which four attackers were killed, officials said.
The militants occupied two buildings under construction some 700 yards north of the facility and used them to direct rockets and gunfire toward the airport and international jet fighters flying over Kabul, said Afghan army Gen. Afzal Aman. Several rockets hit the airport but no planes were damaged, he added.
Kabul Police Chief Mohammed Zahir Zahir said the attack was halted without any civilian or police casualties.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the pre-dawn assault in a call to the Associated Press.
The attack comes at a tense time in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the disputed second round of a presidential election seen as key to insuring a peaceful transfer of power ahead of the withdrawal of most foreign troops by the end of the year.
Unofficial and disputed preliminary results showed former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai well ahead of his rival, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah.