A Taliban siege of Kabul’s diplomatic quarter ended Saturday with explosions and gunfire, leaving four Afghan police, two Spanish nationals, and four of the Taliban attackers dead.
“The government in Madrid confirmed that the two foreigners were Spanish policemen killed during the assault, which began when a huge car bomb struck during rush hour on Friday evening,” reports the Hindustan Times. “The powerful blast, which sent a thick plume of smoke into the sky, was followed by multiple explosions through the night along with sporadic bursts of gunfire.”
“Security men near the embassy ducked from gunshots as they hauled away a limp body and two wounded men through the dark to a waiting ambulance — one bleeding from the head, the other a policeman with a gunshot wound to his leg — an AFP photographer saw,” the report continues.
The Associated Press relates word from Spain that Taliban attackers entered the Spanish embassy in Kabul after the car bombing, which killed Deputy-Inspector Jorge Garcia Tudela and police officer Isidro Gabino Sanmartin Hernández. The embassy staff hid in bunkers while Taliban fighters fought an hour-long gun battle with embassy security, followed by an intervention from U.S. special forces and Afghan troops. Seven civilians and two policemen were also wounded during the attack.
The attack came shortly after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani came home from a regional peace conference in Pakistan, expressing hopes that peace talks with the Taliban would resume soon. The resignation of Afghanistan’s intelligence chief last week is a sign of the strain Taliban violence has placed on Ghani’s government.
The Taliban are working out some internal differences too, in their characteristically brutal style.
“The Taliban has been caught up with a bloody internal power struggle but it has nevertheless been able to mount well-coordinated attacks on targets across the country,” writes the Hindustan Times. “Militants have stepped up the insurgency following the withdrawal of international forces from combat operations last year, achieving a series of successes, including seizing the northern city of Kunduz in September.”
ISIS is a player in Afghanistan as well. Last Monday, the Islamic State released a video targeting the Taliban, accusing its leadership of deviating from “the righteous Muslim path,” as NBC News put it. ISIS accused the Taliban of working with Pakistani security services, cultivating a relationship with Iran, and “protecting shrines deemed un-Islamic by extremist ISIS.”
“My message to the Muslim of people of the province of Khorasan and to those youth who are fighting in the ranks of the Taliban is that, the doors of the Islamic State is [sic] open for you,” said ISIS militant Abu Yasir al-Afghani in the video. NBC News notes that Khorasan is a historic name for the territory, including both modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The video begins with a voice-over in Arabic that says, “For those who wanted right from the Taliban, come to Islamic State, before they make you and the Afghan Army one entity in the name of nationalism.” ISIS has reportedly been doing well at recruiting Taliban members who are unhappy with the current leadership.