Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
News, September 2011
20 Afghanis Killed in Kabul Attack, British Soldier Killed in Helmand
September 14-15, 2011
UK soldier killed in Afghanistan
BBC,15 September 2011, Last updated at 05:46 ET
A British soldier has been killed while on patrol with Afghanistan's police in Helmand province, the Ministry of Defence says.
The soldier, from Gloucestershire-based 1st Battalion The Rifles, was shot in the Nahr-e Saraj district, on Wednesday. His family has been told.
Lt Col Tim Purbrick said: "They came under small arms fire during which he was fatally wounded."
Some 381 UK service personnel have died in Afghanistan operations since 2001.
Kabul siege highlights Taleban strength
Afghan security forces carry the body of a colleague, who was killed during a gun battle with Taliban militants in Kabul. (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq)
By MIRWAIS HAROONI | REUTERS
Published: Sep 14, 2011 20:49 Updated: Sep 14, 2011 20:49
A marathon siege in Kabul’s diplomatic enclave ended on Wednesday with the death of the last two of a group of gunmen who had held off Western and Afghan security forces for nearly 20 hours, showering rockets on Western embassies in a dramatic show of insurgent strength.
It was the longest and most audacious militant attack on the Afghan capital in the decade since the Taleban were ousted from power and a stark reminder of the Taliban resources and reach as Western forces start to return home.
At least 11 civilians were killed, three of them children, NATO-led foreign forces said. The Ministry of the Interior said four policemen died, and that toll was likely to rise.
US Ambassador Ryan Crocker said about six or seven rockets had hit inside the embassy perimeter during the early hours of the attack, launched early on Tuesday afternoon, but said the range meant they had not posed a serious threat.
“They were firing from at least 800 meters away and with an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) that’s harassment. That’s not an attack,” he said in an interview transcript handed out to journalists in Kabul.
The Taliban fighters had holed up in a multistory building still under construction and launched their attack by firing rockets toward the US and other embassies and the headquarters of NATO-led foreign forces.
Three suicide bombers also targeted police buildings in other parts of the city, but the embassy district assault was the most spectacular.
Afghan security forces backed by NATO and Afghan attack helicopters fought floor-by-floor in the 13-story building, which the six Taliban fighters appeared to have booby trapped.
They had arrived under burqas, the traditional face-veiling robe worn by Afghan women, in a car packed with explosives, and entered the high-rise after shooting a security guard.
“As our country is traditional and Islamic, there is a special respect for women and the enemies exploited this to get to the building,” Kabul Police Chief Ayoub Salangi said.
The gunmen then hid from helicopters and government and foreign troops in lift shafts and a maze of small rooms.
The group were armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers, AK-47 assault rifles and suicide bomb vests, a Taleban spokesman said, but the time they held out prompted speculation they had hidden weapons in the building.
“There was almost certainly either a breakdown in security among the Afghans with responsibility for Kabul or an intelligence failure,” said Andrew Exum, fellow at the Center for a New American Security.
Explosions were interspersed with gunfire all afternoon on Tuesday and continued past dawn on Wednesday. Residents of nearby apartments stayed indoors and tried to comfort panicked children, as helicopters flew low overhead. “It would go silent for 30 to 35 minutes and then there were explosions and the sound of heavy machine guns,” one witness said of a sleepless night. There may be unexploded artillery in parts of the city, NATO warned.
Embassies and restaurants frequented by foreigners were on lock-down all evening. The US and British embassies and the NATO-led coalition said all their employees were safe.
Ambassador Crocker said he believed the Haqqani network was behind the attack, and also blamed them for a truck bomb that wounded 77 US troops on Sept. 10.
Named after its leader, Jalaluddin Haqqani, it is one of three, and perhaps the most feared, of the Taleban-allied insurgent factions fighting US-led NATO and Afghan troops in Afghanistan.
They are thought to have introduced suicide bombing to Afghanistan, and are believed to have been behind many high-profile attacks in Kabul, including an assassination attempt on President Karzai and assaults on two top hotels.
The network gets some support in lawless lands on the Pakistani side of the border although the Pakistani government has long dismissed suggestions of links between the militant group and its security agents.
Afghan Ministry of the Interior spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said that although it was too early to say the attack was the work of the Haqqani network, “it is similar to attacks carried by Haqqani.”
Violence is at its worst since US-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taleban government in late 2001, with high levels of foreign troop deaths and record civilian casualties.
The assault was the second big attack in the city in less than a month after suicide bombers targeted the British Council headquarters in mid-August, killing nine people.
In late June, insurgents launched an assault on a hotel in the capital frequented by Westerners, killing at least 10. A US Senate panel has approved a $1.6 billion cut in projected US funding for Afghan security forces, part of a significant reduction in outlays for training and equipping Afghan army and police expected in the coming years.
Taliban siege in central Kabul ends
September 14, 2011|By the CNN Wire Staff
A nearly day-long Taliban siege on the U.S. Embassy and NATO command center in Kabul ended early Wednesday, Afghan and NATO officials said.
A policeman and two civilians were killed and 21 civilians were injured, the Interior Ministry said. Six militants have been killed and the building they were firing from has been cleared, the ministry said.
The strike in central Kabul began Tuesday amid intelligence that insurgents might launch a high-profile attack in the capital around the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States, a coalition officer and a senior official of NATO's International Security Assistance Force confirmed to CNN.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told CNN that his group targeted "the U.S. Embassy, governmental organizations and other foreign organizations."
ISAF said after insurgents attacked the targets Tuesday afternoon "with small arms fire from outside the secure zone surrounding these compounds," Afghan security forces "responded immediately."
Afghan National Army helicopters provided air support. Afghan and international troops "trapped the insurgents in the partially-constructed, multi-story building they were using as a firing position, and conducted a methodical, floor-by-floor clearing operation," ISAF said.
Central Kabul is considered a high-security area, and it is protected by police and other security forces.
ISAF said six of its personnel were wounded in operations through the day Tuesday.
Casualties occurred in three incidents Tuesday in other parts of the city, the Interior Ministry said. Three police officers were killed, and six people -- three police and three civilians -- were injured in suicide attacks.
U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker said he believes the Haqqani network -- a pro-Taliban militant group based in Pakistan's North Waziristan region -- was behind the attacks in Kabul and another in Afghanistan's Wardak province over the weekend.
Crocker played down the significance of the incidents while speaking to reporters Wednesday, describing the attack on the U.S. Embassy as "harassment rather than a direct attack."
"If that's the best they can do, you know, I think it's actually a statement of their weakness and more importantly since Kabul is in the hands of Afghan security it's a real credit to the Afghan National Security Forces," he said. "They are the ones that took down the building and took down those attackers."
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