On December 24th, an hour-long coordinated gun and suicide attack on a Kabul government building left at least 43 dead and 10 injured, the Afghan Health Ministry said.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack as of the morning of December 25th.
Health Ministry spokesman Waheed Majroh said that the attack happened in a building which houses the Ministry of Public Works and the National Authority for Disabled People and Martyrs’ Families
Interior Ministry spokesperson Najib Danish said that other victims include 1 police officer and 3 attackers who were shot by Afghan security forces.
The attack began after a suicide bomber blew himself up in a car at the entrance, gunmen stormed the building going floor by floor targeting employees. Terrified workers were running for their lives, some of them even jumping from windows several floors high to escape.
Approximately 350 people were taken hostage, when the attacker began to clash with Afghan security forces. The security personnel went from floor to floor in the operation to rescue the civilians, they had to exercise caution and restraint due to the number of civilians involved, a senior security official said, cited by Al Jazeera.
An official working in another government building close by said employees had locked themselves in their offices after hearing the explosions and gunfire. During the standoff, which reportedly went on for eight hours, the building’s second floor caught fire, according to local media.
This attack was the biggest in Kabul since November 28th when the Taliban detonated a car bomb outside a G4S compound, killing 10.
Earlier than that, a suicide bomber killed 55 at a religious gathering in Kabul on November 25th. The Taliban denied responsibility for the attack and condemned it.
The December attack followed reports that US President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of half the US forces from Afghanistan. Many of the Afghan officials reportedly fear that the move may harm efforts to end the conflict with the Taliban.
The incident also took place hours after Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi was in Kabul to discuss a negotiated end to Afghanistan’s 17-year war.
Pakistan helped orchestrate the December 17th’s peace talks in Abu Dhabi the United Arab Emirates, where representatives from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Pakistan and the United States met with the Taliban.
According to Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan was a Taliban demand.
He also said that Pakistan is initiating unconditional peace talks with Afghanistan and it would continue making efforts for lasting peace in the neighboring country. He also said that Pakistan released a few Taliban leaders as a sign of goodwill to create a “favorable environment” for the peace talks.
Qureshi also said that the Afghan people themselves need to decide whether they want to live together or not, welcoming Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops.
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