Taliban rockets hit U.S. Embassy in Kabul

Taliban claim responsibility; no casualties reported

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KABUL, Afghanistan -- A pair of rockets fired by the Taliban struck the U.S. Embassy in Kabul shortly before dawn Wednesday, sending hundreds of U.S. diplomats and aid workers based at the mission scrambling into fortified bunkers to start their Christmas Day, the embassy said.

There were no reports of casualties at the embassy. But Afghan officials said that another two rockets hit other parts of the city and that three police officers were wounded when one of the rockets, which had not exploded on impact, detonated as they were trying to defuse it. The other rocket, which did explode on impact, did not cause any casualties or significant damage, said Gen. Zaher Zaher, the police chief of Kabul.

The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for the attack.

The insurgents said in a statement that they had struck the embassy and the headquarters of the U.S.-led coalition, which is up the road from the mission, with four rockets.

"The magnitude of the attack and the scope of the losses have yet to be determined," the statement said.

That last sentence was a step back from an earlier claim made by Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the insurgents, who said in a Twitter message posted shortly after the attack that the insurgents had inflicted heavy casualties.

The Taliban routinely exaggerate the effectiveness of their attacks, and the embassy said no one there had been killed or wounded.

Neither Mr. Mujahid nor other Taliban made reference to the attack's occurring on Christmas Day. The embassy said it was still assessing the attack's effects, but there were no reports of serious damage to any structures, including the main chancery building or the residential towers and trailers where staff members live.

It was not immediately clear which part of the well-fortified compound in the center of the city had been hit. Staff members at the embassy were given the all-clear to move around the compound about two hours after the attack, which took place around 6:40 a.m.

Whether the Taliban had actually intended to strike the embassy was also an open question. Although rocket attacks on Kabul have been relatively infrequent in recent years, they were once more common -- and they rarely appeared well targeted.

A number of rockets fired in the run-up to the presidential election in 2009, for instance, appeared to be aimed at the presidential palace. Most ended up striking areas in the general vicinity of the palace compound, which covers dozens of acres in the middle of Kabul. Few caused serious casualties or significant damage. The insurgents have had more success with hidden bombs. One packed onto a bicycle was used Wednesday afternoon to target a group of police officers who were buying cooking gas from a shop in the main bazaar in Pul-i-Alam, the capital of Logar province south of Kabul, said Din Mohammed Darwish, a spokesman for the provincial government.

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