A Taliban attack Christmas Day struck the United States Embassy in Kabul early Wednesday morning, forcing embassy workers and American diplomats to underground bunkers to shield themselves from the blast. The pair of rockets that were fired at the embassy were accompanied by two other rockets that hit other parts of Kabul. No casualties were reported, but three Afghan police officers were wounded when they attempted to defuse one of the rockets after it failed to detonate on impact.
A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabiullah Mujahid, quickly made a statement on behalf of the group, saying that the Taliban attack was coordinated against the U.S. embassy. The Taliban, on Mujahid’s Twitter feed, claimed that the four rockets fired at various parts of the city “inflicted heavy casualties.” Official reports claim otherwise, with no deaths and only a few wounded.
Shortly afterwards Mujahid retracted his statement, saying “The magnitude of the (Taliban) attack and the scope of the losses have yet to be determined,” a serious contrast between his confident statement hours earlier.
While at first glance it seems as though the Taliban attack on Christmas Day holds some sort of significance, observers say that the holiday is hardly recognized in Afghanistan, where there are little to no Christians. Often the Taliban use prominent Islamic holidays to set off large scale attacks to grab headlines across the Middle East.
Officials are looking now to assess damage to the Embassy, and it is unclear whether or not there is a breach in any of the fortified walls. Embassy workers were cleared to leave their bunkers only two hours after the early morning attack to return to their stations.
Rocket attacks in Afghanistan have been relatively rare in recent years, and often they are random and misguided. Such an attack aimed at the presidential palace in 2009 was meant to disrupt the presidential election held in Afghanistan. Instead, the rockets landed in the “general vicinity” of the presidential palace, causing little damage or harm.
“Sneak” bombs have usually been the Taliban’s M.O., inflicting more damage and causing bodily harm. Such an attack on Wednesday targeted a group of police officers in Pul-i-Alam, the capital of Logar Province, south of Kabul. Six policemen were killed in the attack, the first attack in the area in a month and a half.
This attack follows the recent death of a prominent Taliban leader in Kandahar province by the Afghan National Army. The senior Taliban leader, Mullah Noor Mohammad, was said to be the target of an ambush by Afghan forces.
In the ambush Afghan forces were able to seize valuable information from the compound where Mohammad has been hiding out, as well as ammunition, weapons, and communication devices.
Recent in-fighting in the Taliban over leadership has also marred the worldwide terrorist organization. Following a drone strike that killed Hakimullah Meshud, a beloved figure in the Taliban, talks have been growing between rivaling factions for control over the group.
The Christmas Day Taliban attack on the Embassy may have gone without any casualties or serious damage, but officials are saying security will be increased in light of the events.