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48 killed in Kabul terror siege (Third Lead)

Afghanistan,Terrorism, Mon, 16 Apr 2012 IANS

Kabul, April 16 (IANS) At least 48 people, including 36 terrorists, were killed and 65 injured when an 18-hour dramatic siege of the Afghan capital Kabul by Taliban suicide attackers ended early Monday.


Taliban rebels stormed Kabul Sunday with intense gunfire and rocket attacks targeting key establishments in the heavily guarded diplomatic area. The assault ended after all the attackers were killed Monday.


Taliban attacks on government interests has left 48 people, including the attackers, dead and injured 65, Interior Minister Bismillah Mohammadi said.


He said the rebels armed with suicide vests, assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades began their offensive Sunday and security forces promptly launched a fierce counter-offensive.


Taliban militants fighting Afghan and NATO-led forces launched one of their biggest ever attacks in capital city Kabul, Nangarhar's provincial capital Jalalabad city 120 km east of Kabul, Paktia's provincial capital Gerdez 100 km south and Logar's provincial capital Pul-e-Alam 60 km south of capital Kabul on Sunday as part of what they called the "spring offensive".


It comes as Western forces prepare to leave the country under a plan to hand over full responsibility for security to Afghan forces by 2014.


After the fierce fighting came to an end in Kabul, police said Taliban militants have been brought under control and all the attackers have been killed.


The attacks began at 1.35 p.m. Sunday and were over by 7.30 a.m. Monday, reported Xinhua.


"The last of militants were overrun in Darul Aman area (of Kabul) at 7.30 a.m. today (Monday) and all the attackers have been killed," the police statement said.


Sunday's attack on the Afghanistan capital was the first major assault in more than six months. The heavily guarded area of Kabul, where the attacks have been carried out, is frequented by foreigners and is rarely the scene of violence.


As the security forces fought the heavily-armed Taliban rebels, a string of explosions rocked Kabul early Monday.


The explosions persisted for some time. They followed gunfire that lasted well into Sunday night in an area that houses government offices and embassies, reported CNN.


US Ambassador Ryan Crocker suggested the fighting may be the work of the Haqqani tribal militant network rather than the Taliban, telling CNN television that the Taliban was not "good enough".


The Taliban said Sunday's attacks marked the start of a "spring offensive".


The last attack on Kabul of this scale was witnessed in September 2011 when heavily armed insurgents took over an unfinished high-rise building and opened fire on the US embassy and NATO headquarters. That attack left 14 Afghans dead.


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