KABUL, Afghanistan -- In the second brazen attack on the capital in less than a week, five Taliban suicide bombers stormed the headquarters of the traffic police early on Monday, setting off a fierce nine-hour gun battle that raged into the afternoon and claimed the lives of at least three traffic officers.
The attack began around 5 a.m., when insurgents shot and killed officers at the checkpoint in front of the headquarters, which is on the same road as the Parliament building.
After the firefight began, insurgents wearing suicide vests remotely detonated a huge car bomb and rushed into the compound. Throughout the day, rocket explosions and gunfire erupted in intermittent bursts, as an array of Afghan security forces tried to dislodge the insurgents.
The battle ended shortly after 2 p.m. with all of the insurgents dead. Only two of the bombers detonated their vests, officials said at the scene. The other three fighters were gunned down by the security forces.
In addition to the three dead officers, six members of the security forces were wounded in the attack, said Gen. Abdul Rahman Rahman, a deputy minister at the Interior Ministry. At least eight civilians were also wounded, mostly from the bombing.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault, the second it has carried out in less than a week. On Wednesday, heavily armed bombers blew up the gate to an Afghan intelligence facility, killing at least one security officer and injuring numerous civilians.
The consecutive attacks have rattled the relative security Kabul has experienced compared with other areas of the country. The group has promised to continue its fight against government targets in Kabul and elsewhere, creating unease among many Afghans as they prepare for coalition forces to withdraw troops from the country by 2014 or sooner.
"Our target was a special police training unit where foreign instructors and trainers train," said a Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid. "We inflicted heavy casualties to the enemy so far, and that is a part of our routine operations against the enemy."
Unlike the facilities of the security services, which are heavily armed and protected by mountainous blast walls and coils of razor wire, the traffic police headquarters offered a softer target. Traffic police officers are not typically armed in the streets of Kabul, and the headquarters does not have the same level of security as the intelligence installations.
Still, within half an hour of the blast, the area was cordoned off by an array of Afghan security forces, as onlookers listened to the firefight from beyond the security perimeter. Periodically, debris from rocket-propelled grenades rained down on the street.
Jawad Sukhanyar contributed reporting.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.