- The Taliban are mounting an attack on the presidential compound in the center of the Afghan capital Kabul. There have been reports of explosions and gunfire but few details as yet.
The Taliban immediately claimed responsibility for the attack that began about 6:30 AM local time. Al Jazeera producer Qais Azimy who was on the scene said that the attack was under way at the palace even as a meeting was supposed to take place. Mohammad Zahir of the Kabul police also confirmed that there was an ongoing militant attack in central Kabul. He also said that the attack as with previous incidents of late seemed well-coordinated. A number of attackers targeted the west gate, near the CIA office according to the Al Jazeera producer. He said that there was black smoke billowing from the building. Azimy also noted that President Karzai could very well be in his office as he was due to address the media.
The Taliban claim that suicide bombers were involved in the attack on one of the most secure areas in the whole of Kabul. There were reports of more than half a dozen explosions and at least 45 minutes of small arms fire. A Taliban statement said they had brought death to the enemy. The presidential palace is in a large fortified area in the center of Kabul. It contains the US Embassy and also the headquarters for the NATO forces. Reporters had been gathering for an event featuring President Karzai.
A Reuters reporter at the scene said that buildings surrounding the palace were attacked including the CIA headquarters. He confirmed the attack began around 6:30 AM when at least one gunman opened fire at a gate to the palace. A number of reporters were at the scene as Karzai was due to attend a press event at 9 AM. They had to dive for cover as government forces and the gunmen exchanged fire. Karzai's whereabouts were not known. Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahi said:"Today at 6.30 a.m. a number of suicide bombers attacked the presidential palace, defense ministry and the Ariana Hotel," . The Arian Hotel is the headquarters of the CIA. A thick plume of smoke was seen rising from the building. The Afghan Defense Ministry building is also in the area.