Taliban militants hit a Spanish Embassy compound in Kabul early Friday evening, killing six people including two Spanish police officers, in an audacious attack that shook the capital’s diplomatic enclave with a large suicide car bomb attack that could be heard from several miles away.
One of the Spanish policemen has been identified as Isidro Gabino Sanmartín Hernández, 48 years old, a member of the Spanish force that guards Spanish diplomatic compounds around the world, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Afghan policemen arrive at the site of the attack in the Afghan capital of Kabul (Photo: REUTERS/Omar Sobhani)
Other fatalities included four Afghan police officers, according to Sediq Seddiqi, a Ministry of Interior spokesman.
The Afghan authorities said all the attackers had been killed.
“Afghan special forces concluded the operation at 5.30am, rescuing 12 other people from inside the building,” Mr Seddiqi told the Telegraph.
British solders from the NATO coalition carry the body of victim after a car bomb attack near the Spanish embassy compound in Kabul (Photo: Wakil Kohsar/AFP)
At midnight, four large explosions rang out, reported to be RPGs used by Afghan special forces, followed by an intense volley of gunfire.
Members of the Afghan security forces arrive at the scene of an attack at the Spanish embassy in Kabul (Photo: EPA/HEDAYATULLAH AMID)
The compound is located on a street that also houses several other foreign guesthouses and homes of wealthy Afghans, causing initial confusion as to who was the target of the attack.
Demonstrating the lack of clear information in the early hours of the attack, Spanish officials provided contradictory information to media. Initially the Spanish Foreign Ministry confirmed that their Embassy was under attack to Spanish newspaper El Pais, but this was later rejected by prime minister Mariano Rajoy Brey, who tweeted that their Embassy had not been a target.
Mr Rajoy nevertheless later confirmed that one Spanish police officer had been killed, but all Embassy staff were “in good condition”.
Afghan security forces stand guard close to the Spanish embassy in Kabul (Photo: AP/Massoud Hossain)
Heavily armed Afghan commandos and military vehicles quickly cordoned off the area as sporadic volleys of gunfire were heard, and camera drones buzzed over the blast site to assess the attack.
NOW - Big blast in Kabul pic.twitter.com/gFMdTrX0It— Kawoon Khamoosh (@KawoonKhamoosh) December 11, 2015
An official at the nearby hospital run by the Italian NGO Emergency said three Afghan security forces and five civilians had been admitted quickly after the initial blast, but none with serious injuries.
Ambulances waited close to the scene in case of further wounded.
British solders from the NATO coalition walk in front of an armoured ambulance (Photo: Wakil Kohsar/AFP)
“Martyrdom-seeking Taliban have entered a guesthouse belonging to foreigners,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told the Telegraph by telephone. “They have entered the guesthouse and an intense fight is ongoing.”
General Mohammad Salangi, Deputy Interior Minister, speaking to media close to the site, said that Afghan special forces had been dispatched.
Mr Salangi initially declined to confirm how many Taliban had entered the building, but later confirmed that four attackers had been involved.
An Afghan soldier is on the scene in Kabul (Photo: AP/Rahmat Gul)
Eyewitnesses said that armored vehicles had been set on fire and at least two foreigners had been seen escaping from the building.
It appeared that a large car bomb had been used to blow open the compound’s security gates, followed by gunmen, a tactic previously used by the Taliban to assault heavily fortified buildings in Afghanistan.
A local resident handed over a piece of the car used in the suicide bombing to local security forces, which he said had landed in his front yard around 150 meters from the blast site.
Afghan security forces stand guard close to the Spanish embassy, in the centre of Kabul (Photo: AP/Massoud Hossain)
Foreign embassies, the UN and NGOs have been on high alert in Kabul for some weeks, with Embassies imposing tighter security restrictions than usual on diplomats.
On 30 November, the U.S. Embassy publicly warned that it had received credible reports of an imminent attack.
The attack follows a large scale assault by Taliban forces earlier in the week against Kandahar airfield in southern Afghanistan, which houses a Nato base. At least 50 Afghans were killed and another 37 were wounded in that attack.