4 militants die in attack in upscale area of Afghan capital

KABUL (TIP): An all-night siege in an upscale neighborhood of Afghanistan’s capital ended in the early hours of Wednesday morning with the deaths of four heavily armed attackers, though no civilians or security personnel were injured or killed, an Afghan official said. Deputy interior minister Mohammad Ayub Salangi said that weapons had been seized, including a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, three automatic rifles and a hand grenade. Using his official Twitter account, Salangi said there were “no civilian or military casualties.”

The siege ended after 5 am in a sustained barrage of automatic weapons fire and a series of huge explosions that resounded across the Wazir Akbar Khan district of downtown Kabul, home to many embassies and foreign firms.

Salangi had said earlier that the target of the attack appeared to be a guesthouse, but he gave no further details.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in tweets on a recognized Twitter account. They referred to the target as “belonging to the occupiers,” reiterating the insurgents’ message that foreign installations are specific targets in the Afghan capital. The attack came amid intensified fighting across many parts of Afghanistan since the insurgents launched their annual warm weather offensive a month ago. A Taliban attack on a guesthouse in another part of the capital earlier this month left 14 people dead, including nine foreigners.

The United Nations already has documented a record high number of civilian casualties — 974 killed and 1,963 injured —in the first four months of 2015, a 16 percent increase over the same period last year. The siege began late Tuesday, with heavy explosions accompanying sporadic automatic weapon fire, and sounded to be focused on the Rabbani Guesthouse, which is favored by foreigners as the area is in the heart of the diplomatic district and close to the airport. Police and a paramilitary Crisis Response Unit surrounded the area, blocked roads, took up positions on rooftops and parked armored personnel vehicles in the streets around the guesthouse. Police officers smashed lights throughout the neighborhood to cover their movements. For about five hours, gunfire and explosions were sporadic, before a lull lasting more than an hour ended with a dawn volley of sustained gunfire and huge explosions that sent clouds of black smoke into the sky.

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