KABUL (Reuters) - Gunmen attacked an area around a security base and training center for Afghanistan’s intelligence service in the capital Kabul on Thursday, holding off security forces for hours before being killed.
The incident comes at a time of high tension after a series of attacks across Afghanistan, including a full-scale assault on the city of Ghazni by the Taliban last week that killed as many as 150 civilians and destroyed houses and a local market.
There was no immediate word on any casualties from Thursday’s attack, the latest in a long series to target military and intelligence facilities in Kabul.
Islamic State issued a statement claiming responsibility in a statement on its Amaq news agency.
Staff and officials at the training center took shelter in a protected area of the compound as gunfire came from a half-finished building near the site.
Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanekzai said the attackers had fired rocket-propelled grenades as well as automatic rifles, and that security forces had held back from assaulting the building where the gunmen had taken position.
Afghan Special Forces, backed by advisers from the NATO-led Resolute Support mission, surrounded the site and kept the attackers in a standoff for hours, with the occasional sound of gunfire or explosions.
After some seven hours, officials said the two attackers were killed.
Separately on Thursday, Islamic State also claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Kabul that tore through an educational center on Wednesday where teenagers had been studying for a university entrance examination.
The public health ministry has put the death toll at 40, and rights group Amnesty International condemned the attack as a “war crime”.
In Ghazni, heavily damaged by five days of heavy fighting this week, there were warnings of the danger posed by unexploded ordnance and there were still problems with water and power but otherwise the situation was calm.
“Clearing operations in Ghazni continue, but violence in the city, which is recovering from the Taliban’s aftermath, has abated and the city remains quiet,” said Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell, spokesman for U.S Forces-Afghanistan.
The latest fighting has raised questions over prospects for peace talks between the Taliban and the Western-backed government ahead of next week’s Eid al-Adha, a major annual Muslim festival.
Taliban officials have told Reuters the movement’s leadership was considering a ceasefire, following a three-day truce during the Eid al-Fitr holiday in June, but there has so far been no confirmation.
The last Eid truce, which saw unarmed Taliban fighters mingling with soldiers and police in Kabul and other cities, offered a rare glimpse of peace and Taliban officials say they have held preliminary meetings with U.S. diplomats.
But officials have also said they are bracing for more violence with the approach of parliamentary elections in October.
Additional reporting by Akram Walizada; Abdul Qadir Sediqi, Hamid Shalizi, Omar Fahmy in CAIRO; Editing by Robert Birsel and Alison Williams