Advertisement

29 killed after gunmen attack Afghanistan’s ministry for disabled persons, martyrs

Click to play video 'Dozens killed as gunmen raid Afghan government building' Dozens killed as gunmen raid Afghan government building
WATCH: Dozens killed as gunmen raid Afghan government building (Warning: This video contains disturbing images. Discretion advised.) – Dec 24, 2018

Gunmen who raided a government building in the Afghan capital killed at least 28 people – mostly government employees – and wounded more than 20 others in a seven-hour standoff with police that ended on Monday night, Afghan authorities said.

Others killed included a policeman and three of the attackers who were shot dead by Afghan security forces, Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said.

The attack began in the afternoon when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a car outside the public works ministry. Militants then stormed the building of the National Authority for Disabled People and Martyrs’ Families, taking civilians hostage as they fought a gun battle against Afghan soldiers.

READ MORE: U.S. looks to pull half of its 14,000 troops out of Afghanistan

Afghan security forces went from floor to floor of the building in an operation to rescue over 350 people inside, but had to exercise restraint in their operations against the attackers given the number of employees there, a senior security official said.

Story continues below advertisement

No militant group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Ambulances raced to the scene during a lull in the shooting, a witness who lives nearby told Reuters. At least 20 people wounded in the clashes were taken to hospital.

WATCH: After 17 years of war, Afghanistan could fall to Taliban

Click to play video 'After 17 years of war, Afghanistan could fall to Taliban' After 17 years of war, Afghanistan could fall to Taliban
After 17 years of war, Afghanistan could fall to Taliban – Dec 21, 2018

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, the building’s second floor caught fire, local news channels reported.

Attacks on government offices are frequent and are generally carried out by the Islamist Taliban, who are fighting to expel foreign forces from strategic provinces, topple the Western-backed government and restore their version of hardline Islamic law.

Story continues below advertisement

The 17-year-old war with the Taliban has seen both fighting and diplomacy intensify in recent months.

READ MORE: U.S. service member killed in combat in Afghanistan

On Thursday, an official said U.S. President Donald Trump was planning to withdraw at least 5,000 of the 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, a day after Trump unexpectedly announced that U.S. troops in Syria would be withdrawn.

The United States went to war in Afghanistan in 2001 in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, seeking to oust the Taliban militants harboring Saudi-raised militant Osama bin Laden, who led plans to carry out the attacks.

WATCH: Ambulances respond to scene of deadly suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan

Click to play video 'Ambulances respond to scene of deadly suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan' Ambulances respond to scene of deadly suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan
Ambulances respond to scene of deadly suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan – Nov 20, 2018

At present, American troops make up the bulk of the Resolute Support mission to train and advise Afghan forces fighting the Taliban and the Islamic State militant group. Others are part of a U.S.-led counter-terrorism mission.

Story continues below advertisement

The prospect of a U.S. drawdown has triggered widespread uncertainty in war-torn Afghanistan.

With security deteriorating, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday replaced his defense and interior ministers with two uncompromising opponents of the Taliban.