Suicide bombers and gunmen launched an eight-hour assault on the headquarters of the Kabul traffic police, Afghan officials said, in the second coordinated attack on a government building in less than a week.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the operation, in which all five attackers and three traffic police officers were killed, interior ministry officials said. The fighting also left four traffic police and eight nearby civilians wounded.
Monday's attack began when three men detonated suicide bombs outside the main entrance and was followed by the two remaining attackers storming the unfortified area, General Abdul Rahman, the deputy interior minister, said.
The pair, armed with automatic rifles, battled security forces outside the building nestled between two police hubs and
close to parliament and a road commonly used by Afghan MPs.
Thick smoke rose from the compound and an Afghan Army helicopter hovered above as Afghan forces returned fire with
rockets and machine guns.
The two gunmen were eventually killed by security forces, an interior ministry spokesman said.
A witness described the initial explosion, a car bomb at the front gate of the building, as "very very big - it was massive". That initial blast was followed by subsequent explosions and gunfire that carried on several hours.
|Taliban say the border police was their target [Reuters]
Al Jazeera's Jennifer Glasse, reporting from Kabul, said at least two of the rooms in the traffic police compound had caught fire during the clashes.
Sediq Sediqqi, spokesperson for the interior ministry, speaking to Al Jazeera from Kabul, said the Taliban had been contained and that police had gone "going floor-by-floor" to insure no other attackers remained.
Sediqqi cited "slight" wounds among police forces, as a sign that the Afghan National Police are "stronger; we can really contain their damage and give them a quicker response".
A spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, ISAF, said: "Afghan security forces are doing a great job pressuring the insurgents. ISAF will continue to train, advise, assist the ANSF ... [The] Taliban are losing this fight, are growing weaker. Many are leaving the fight because they do not want to fight their Afghan brothers."
Though NATO would not disclose its role in the operation, an eyewitness speaking to Al Jazeera, reported seeing NATO forces "firing a rocket" at the attack site in Kabul's Deh Mazang area.
The Taliban, who claimed responsibility for the attack, told Al Jazeera their target was the border police offices next door to the traffic police compound.
Our correspondent said the initial attack occurred just before dawn, "a time when the streets of Kabul and the building itself would be quite empty," which would be an advantage if the group intended to use the traffic police compound as a staging site for another attack on the border police.
Monday's blasts were the second co-ordinated attack in the Afghan capital in five days. Last Wednesday, the National Directorate of Security, the Afghan spy agency, was targeted in an attack that left two security guards and five attackers dead.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies