Taliban insurgents, including a suicide bomber, have stormed an election commission office in Kabul Tuesday, just two weeks before the presidential polls, while three other suicide bombers simultaneously attacked a branch of one of the country's largest banks, news reports said.
Blasts occurred at an Independent Election Commission, or IEC, office, located in the western Darulaman area of Kabul, which is also close to the home of Ashraf Ghani, who is viewed as a potential successor to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Two civilians were wounded in the attack as gunfire continued for more than an hour after the explosions. According to a BBC report citing the interior ministry, five gunmen and two policemen were killed in the gunbattle with the insurgents.
Meanwhile, three suicide bombers entered a branch of Kabulbank in the eastern province of Kunar, killing at least three security guards and injuring two bank workers, Reuters reported, citing local police.
“At around 11:35 am (0705 GMT) a suicide bomber blew himself up at the gate of an IEC regional office in Darulaman, and then several other attackers entered the building," Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Estanakzai said, according to Agence France-Presse.
Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for Kabul’s Interior Ministry, told Reuters: “Only one of the attackers is still resisting from the top floor (of the election commission building) but others have been killed.”
According to the BBC report, the fighting continued four hours after it had begun, even as authorities began "cleaning up" operations at the election commission compound.
Initially, the police had reportedly said that the militants had entered Ghani’s home, but later corrected the statement to say that the attack was made on the election office and, in the process, Ghani's house too was attacked.
"The attack was on an election office next to Dr Ashraf Ghani's house. His house was also hit by the attackers. He is not at home but his family is there," an aide of Ghani reportedly told Reuters.
The latest attacks follow Thursday's attack on Kabul’s Serena Hotel, which claimed the lives of nine civilians. Also on Thursday, the Taliban invaded a police station in the eastern city of Jalalabad, killing 10 policemen. A crowded market in the northern province of Faryab also saw an attack by the Taliban last Tuesday, killing 16 people.
The Taliban, who oppose the presidential elections in Afghanistan slated for April 5, have stepped up violence in the country, in an apparent attempt to disrupt the polls.