In a violent show of dissent over democratic elections in Afghanistan, the Taliban launched an armed attack against Kabul’s election commission HQ. The insurgents attacked the Independent Election Commission headquarters ahead of the anticipated April 5th presidential election. The attack lasted over five hours as IEC workers scrambled to take refuge inside the compound. In the end, the four suicide bombers involved in the attack were killed in the ensuing shootout says the Afghan army general.
Commander Qadam Shah Shaheem made a public statement, saying that no other casualties were suffered outside of the four Taliban militants. Commander Shaheem added that three security forces had been injured in the attack and are currently being treated for their wounds.
The nearby Kabul airport shutdown its runway following reports of the attack due to security concerns of low-flying planes.
The militants made their way into the compound disguised in Burqas, a common garb for Afghan women. Once inside, they were unable to penetrate the high security area, instead occupying a nearby empty house where they began to shoot at armed security forces.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid beared responsibility for the attack, claiming the operation was much more ambitious in scale. All reports say that Mujahid’s comments do not match the reality on the ground. He also made claim to a meeting being held between IEC and election observers during the attack, which was the sight of their target. No meeting could be confirmed by sources within te IEC.
The attack came while the compound hightened security following credible reports of an impending terrorist operation. Observers say such precautions saved the lives of those working inside and helped bring an end to the violent attack before it could cause even greater damage.
The building’s contrator Roots of Peace, took the time to blockade the front entrance of the compound with an armored Land Cruiser. The car was utilized by security guards to take cover from the ongoing armored assault. According to Gary Kuhn, Roots of Peace president, such a move provided enough time for security forces to secure the area and slow the attackers from advancing.
Two American residents detailed their account of taking cover from the gunfire in their bedroom closets. According to Heidi Kuhn, Roots of Piece chief executive, one man hid under a pile of clothes in his closet as Taliban militants stormed the room, letting off rounds and tossing flash grenades. One Taliban militant even opened the closet but managed to miss the man hiding under the clothes.
“It’s a miracle all of them escaped” said Mrs. Kuhn.
The Taliban which enjoyed a considerable degree of autonomy and power before the U.S. occupation see democratic elections as a threat to their grip over the country. Controlling large swaths of territory, rivaling warlords and Taliban officials have managed to keep the Afghan public from dissent while imposing their strict interpretation of Shari’a law.
Officials say security will be tightened at polling stations across the country in lieu of the recent attacks. Observers say such precautions are natural under the circumstances of national elections in an unstable region.