IS mil­i­tants at­tack Kabul Iraq em­bassy, all killed

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE - — AFP

A sui­cide bomber blew him­self up out­side the Iraqi em­bassy in Kabul yes­ter­day and mil­i­tants breached the com­pound, Afghan of­fi­cials said, in a com­plex hours-long at­tack claimed by the Is­lamic State group. All the at­tack­ers had been killed and the com­pound se­cured roughly four hours af­ter the as­sault be­gan, Afghanistan’s in­te­rior min­istry said, ad­ding that all em­bassy staff were safe and only one po­lice­man wounded “slightly”.

There were con­flict­ing re­ports about how the at­tack un­folded. The in­te­rior min­istry said at least four mil­i­tants had at­tacked the em­bassy, be­gin­ning with a sui­cide bomber who det­o­nated his vest at the com­pound en­trance. “The quick­re­sponse po­lice forces ar­rived in time and evac­u­ated the Iraqi diplo­mats to safe place. No em­bassy staff have been harmed, only one po­lice­man was wounded slightly,” a min­istry state­ment said.

An Afghan se­cu­rity of­fi­cial at the site of the at­tack and a num­ber of wit­nesses how­ever sug­gested the at­tack­ers were dropped by a car nearby, who then stormed the Iraqi em­bassy build­ing with hails of bul­lets, be­fore pen­e­trat­ing and det­o­nat­ing them­selves inside. Black smoke bil­lowed into the air above the neigh­bor­hood in north­west­ern Kabul as the sound of gun­fire, blasts and am­bu­lance sirens could be heard. Pan­icked res­i­dents, in­clud­ing women and chil­dren, could be seen flee­ing the area.

The Iraqi for­eign min­istry in Bagh­dad said the charge d’af­fairs was among those evac­u­ated and that it was mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion with Afghan au­thor­i­ties, with­out giv­ing fur­ther de­tails. The Afghanistan af­fil­i­ate of the Is­lamic State group claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment by its pro­pa­ganda agency Amaq.

It said two of its mem­bers at­tacked the em­bassy killing at least 27 guards and other em­bassy staff. The mil­i­tant group is known to of­ten ex­ag­ger­ate its claims on the num­ber of causal­i­ties in­flicted.

The Iraqi em­bassy is lo­cated in north­west­ern Kabul, in a neigh­bor­hood that is home to sev­eral ho­tels and banks as well as large su­per­mar­kets and sev­eral po­lice com­pounds. “I heard a big blast fol­lowed by sev­eral ex­plo­sions and small gun­fire,” said Ah­mad Ali, a nearby shop­keeper. “Peo­ple were wor­ried and closed their shops to run for safety. The roads are still blocked by se­cu­rity forces.”

The at­tack is the lat­est to rock Kabul, which is reg­u­larly dev­as­tated by bomb blasts and mil­i­tant as­saults, of­ten killing many civil­ians. The resur­gent Tal­iban claim many of the at­tacks as they step up their bid to drive out for­eign forces with a se­ries of as­saults across the coun­try. But the Is­lamic State group, re­cently ousted from the Iraqi city of Mo­sul, have been ex­pand­ing their foot­print in eastern Afghanistan and have claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for sev­eral dev­as­tat­ing at­tacks in Kabul.

First emerg­ing in 2015, the group’s lo­cal af­fil­i­ate Is­lamic State Kho­rasan Prov­ince (IS-K), over­ran large parts of eastern Nan­garhar and Ku­nar prov­inces, near the Pak­istan bor­der, where they en­gaged in a turf war with the Tale­ban. US forces in Afghanistan have re­peat­edly tar­geted the group, killing its head Abu Sayed and sev­eral se­nior ad­vis­ers in a July 11 strike in Ku­nar, the Pen­tagon has said.

The de­ci­sion to de­ploy the so-called Mother of All Bombs (MOAB) also tar­geted IS hide­outs in Nan­garhar, ac­cord­ing to the Afghan de­fense min­istry, though fight­ing in the area has con­tin­ued. Pen­tagon of­fi­cials say the group now num­bers fewer than 1,000 in Afghanistan. “We will be re­lent­less in our cam­paign against ISIS-K. There are no safe havens in Afghanistan,” said Gen­eral John Ni­chol­son, com­man­der of US forces in Afghanistan, in a state­ment Sun­day con­firm­ing some of the deaths in the July 11 strike.

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