KABUL, Afghanistan — In what appeared to be a test of the capabilities of Afghan security forces, Taliban insurgents sought to penetrate the heavily fortified heart of Kabul, blasting their way Friday into a residential compound of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a United Nations-affiliated agency.
The Afghan forces held the attackers at bay, and hundreds of international-agency employees in nearby compounds escaped harm. But at least two people were killed and 13 wounded, including an Italian woman, and it took more than six hours for hundreds of Afghan police officers to subdue no more than six attackers who had suicide vests, guns and grenade launchers.
Gen. Mohammad Ayoub Salangi, Kabul’s police chief, said all “five or six” of the attackers were killed.
Explosions continued through the night. The authorities said they were from booby traps the attackers had planted in the compound.
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It was the first example of what the military calls a “complex attack,” involving gunmen and suicide bombers, in the capital since insurgents attacked the headquarters of the unarmed traffic police force in January. It took Afghan forces nine hours to bring that to an end.
There have been other serious attacks in Kabul more recently, including a deadly one a week earlier in which a suicide-car bomber killed six U.S. military advisers, but those have been single bombings, rather than extended engagements.
A coalition official said the Afghan police’s Quick Reaction Force, along with other units, responded swiftly and competently Friday. “This is a high-end Afghan unit that is down there,” he said. “I’d put it against most Western SWAT teams that are out there.”
U.S. officials previously expressed concern about the timidity of Afghan security forces in Kabul when faced with attacks from bands of insurgents, and advisers embedded with their forces have sometimes had difficulty encouraging them to move aggressively to contain attackers. That has been a focus of training.
The compound the insurgents attacked is close to the main facility of the U.N. in Kabul and guesthouses and offices used by foreigners, a post of the Afghan Public Protection Force and a hospital for the national intelligence service.
The Taliban claimed the building they invaded was a CIA training center, according to the insurgents’ spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, who was reached by telephone. Police officials denied that was the case. The IOM is an intergovernmental organization based in Geneva that helps resettle people worldwide. It operates in Afghanistan in a mission coordinated by the U.N. but is not an agency of the world body.
The dead included an Afghan policeman and a Nepalese Gurkha guard, who apparently had been on the gate at the migration agency’s compound.
Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.