The 18-hour Taliban attack on the Afghan capital ended early Monday when insurgents who had holed up overnight in two buildings were overcome by heavy gunfire from Afghan-led forces and pre-dawn air assaults from U.S.-led coalition helicopters.
Kabul residents awoke Monday to a second day of loud explosions and the crackle of gunfire. As darkness turned to dawn, Afghan-led forces fired one rocket-propelled grenade after another into a building in the center of the city where insurgents began their attack Sunday.
Fighting there and at the Afghan parliament building on the southwest side of the city ended just before 8 a.m.
Authorities said one police officer and at least 17 militants were killed in the multi-pronged attacks in Kabul and three eastern cities. The violence showed the Taliban and their allies are far from beaten and underscored the security challenge facing government forces as U.S. and NATO forces draw down. The majority of international combat troops are scheduled to leave by the end of 2014.
The Taliban began their near-simultaneous assaults on embassies, government buildings and NATO bases at 1.30 p.m. Sunday, saying it was their response to NATO officials’ recent claims that the insurgency was weak.
Local residents near the parliament building said rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire rocked their neighborhood through the night and into the morning.
Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi said militants took up position in a building under construction near parliament. Some lawmakers grabbed weapons and started fighting when militants fired on the parliament building on Sunday.
Reporters for The Associated Press witnessed the Monday morning assault on another building under construction near the presidential palace, western embassies and Afghan ministries.
Shortly before 3 a.m., coalition helicopters began flying over the building. At 4.23 a.m. a religious cleric began calling worshippers to prayer over a loudspeaker in the area. During the next 15 minutes, troops launched five rocket-propelled grenades into the building. More followed.
The loud booms from the blasts momentarily silenced chirping birds. Red and white flashes could be seen inside the various floors of the multistory building. By about 6.30 a.m., the blasts and shooting had stopped.
An intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the news media, said an operation to clear the building was nearly completed. The official said one insurgent was still defending the building, but that at least four other militants had been killed.