Taliban Escalate Battle With Afghan Spy Agency in Assault on Its Headquarters

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KABUL, Afghanistan -- Heavily armed Taliban attackers in minivans packed with explosives struck the headquarters of the Afghan intelligence agency on Wednesday, detonating one of the vehicles in one of the most secure parts of Kabul and escalating a growing conflict between the two entities.

The explosion went off around noon near one of the gates at the headquarters, killing one agent and wounding at least 30 civilians, some of whom could be seen staggering down the street, covered in blood. A second vehicle, filled with explosives and five gunmen, was stopped by guards, who killed the insurgents and managed to defuse the bomb three minutes before it was set to detonate, officials said.

The bombing was the latest salvo in a pitched battle between the Taliban and the Afghan intelligence agency, officially named the National Directorate of Security.

Over the past two days, Taliban fighters have claimed responsibility for the deaths of four of the agency's guards across the country. On Wednesday, in addition to the attack in Kabul, two agency guards died while trying to defuse a roadside bomb in Tarinkot, the capital of Oruzgan Province. And on Tuesday, an agency guard was gunned down there by attackers on a motorcycle.

The recent wave of attacks follows the attempted assassination last month of the Afghan intelligence chief, Asadullah Khalid, the architect of the agency's intense crackdown on militants over the past few months. Mr. Khalid, who survived the suicide attack with serious injuries, was flown to the United States for treatment.

The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for Wednesday's assault and promised to continue targeting the intelligence agency, describing the assault as a tit-for-tat. "The N.D.S. had been targeting our mujahedeen everywhere in the country," Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said by telephone. "We would prefer to target it all the time."

While Kabul, the capital, is considered safer than the south and east of the country, bombings and attacks from insurgents aimed at undermining confidence in the government's ability to defend itself have been a familiar reality here.

"We are still faced with threats and terrorism, but what is important for us is to show our abilities to deal with such threats and problems," said Sidiq Sidiqqi, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry. "Afghans were their victims today."

The explosion, which ripped glass and metal from buildings as far as 150 yards away, left a chaotic scene on a snowy afternoon. Security officers scrambled to seal off the scene and within a half-hour had everything locked down, but the cordon also kept Afghan police officers from getting near the site.

The intelligence agency showed the contents of the second vehicle, which was lined with a gel-based explosive that the government said it had never seen before. Five assault rifles, more than 40 grenades and at least 30 banana clips of ammunition were laid out on a tarp beside the vehicle.

Officials claimed the attack as a victory of sorts, having stopped the second vehicle and killed its occupants in six minutes. But the attack rattled those in the neighborhood.

Mohammad Zaki, 15, was in his shop nearby when the bomb went off. He bore the evidence of the blast on his face, where a stream of blood had dried over his left eye.

"What else would I feel but insecure?" the boy asked. "Who are these attackers, and why are they killing innocent people?"

Sangar Rahimi and Jawad Sukhanyar contributed reporting from Kabul, and Taimoor Shah from Kandahar, Afghanistan.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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