Correspondents* – IPS/Al Jazeera
HAVANA TIMES, Sept. 14 (IPS) — Afghan and NATO forces have ended their assault on Taliban fighters, 20 hours after the group launched coordinated attacks in Kabul, targeting NATO’s headquarters, the U.S. embassy and the Afghan intelligence agency.
At least three policemen, four civilians and six Taliban fighters were killed and many others injured in the attack and the ensuring security operation, Afghan police and hospital sources said Wednesday.
Fighters were holed up in a high-rise building near Kabul’s diplomatic district throughout the night, as NATO helicopters circled overhead trying to flush them out.
The attackers were using the building as a base from which to fire rockets at the U.S. embassy and NATO headquarters.
By Wednesday morning, all the fighters had been killed, the sources said.
“The last attackers are dead and the fighting all over. There were six terrorists in the building and all are dead,” Siddiq Siddiqi, an interior ministry spokesman, told AFP news agency.
Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, condemned the attacks and said it could not hamper the security transition from NATO to Afghan forces.
“The attacks cannot stop the process [transition] from taking place and cannot affect, but rather embolden our people’s determination in taking the responsibility for their country’s own affairs,” he said in a statement.
Only an hour after an attack near the U.S. embassy on Tuesday, heavy explosions were heard in other parts of the city.
Just a few miles away in the west of Kabul, a suicide bomber detonated himself near a police building, killing one policeman.
A second suicide bomber wounded two people when he detonated himself near Habibia high school, also in the west of the city.
“The primary targets of the attackers are the intelligence agency building and a ministry,” Zabiullah Mujahid, spokesperson for the Taliban, told Reuters on Tuesday from an undisclosed location.
The U.S. embassy in Kabul said no personnel had been reported injured.
ISAF’s headquarters in Kabul was also one of the targets, a Western military source told the AFP news agency.
Mohammad Zahir, head of Kabul’s Crime Investigation Unit, said: “There has been an explosion and gunfire, there are several armed attackers in Abdul Haq Square.”
Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador, pointed the finger at the Haqqani network, a Taliban-allied group seen as its driving force along Afghanistan’s porous border with Pakistan.
The White House said President Barack Obama was briefed on the attacks targeting the U.S. embassy and NATO headquarters.
Hillary Clinton, the U.S. secretary of state, called it a “cowardly attack” that would not deter U.S. efforts.
“We will take all necessary steps, not only to ensure the safety of our people, but to secure the area and to ensure that those who perpetrated this attack are dealt with,” she said.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO’s secretary-general, said he was confident Afghan forces could deal with the Taliban assault.
He said that efforts by Taliban fighters to derail NATO’s handover of security responsibility to Afghan forces by 2014 would not work.
“We are witnessing that the Taliban try to test transition but they can’t stop it. Transition is on track and it will continue,”
The attack in Kabul follows a huge truck bomb attack on a NATO base in central Afghanistan in which four Afghan civilians were killed and
77 U.S. troops wounded, on the eve of the anniversary of the Sep. 11, 2001, attacks.
Last month, Taliban attackers laid siege to the British Council, killing at least nine people during an assault on the 92nd anniversary of Afghanistan’s independence from British rule.
*Published under an agreement with Al-Jazeera.