Kabul: Afghan officials said on Thursday that five insurgents linked to the Haqqani network were killed in a pre-dawn gunbattle, claiming to have foiled a major attack on an area of Kabul home to Western embassies.
A spokesman for Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security intelligence agency told AFP that three vehicles loaded with explosives were seized, along with suicide vests, rockets, hand grenades and machine-guns.
Lutfullah Mashal said forces discovered maps pinpointing intended targets in central Kabul, including the diplomatic enclave of Wazir Akbar Khan and nearby Shar-i-Naw, but refused to provide further details for security reasons.
The militants — who also had all-enveloping burqas to disguise themselves as women — had planned to seize a tall building from which to fire on their targets, he said.
The scale of the preparations and the targets, as unveiled by Afghan officials, suggest an attempt at an assault along the lines of the biggest coordinated attack on the capital in 10 years of war, which occurred on April 15 this year.
Then, three squads of suicide attackers - described later by Western officials as members of the Al Qaida-linked Haqqani network — took up positions in high buildings and fired on government offices, embassies and military bases.
Seventeen hours of fighting left 51 dead, including 36 attackers.
Acting on intelligence reports Thursday, security forces raided a house in the eastern Pul-e-Charkhi neighbourhood and a gunfight erupted after the militants refused to surrender, Mashal said.
“The gunfight lasted for six hours and a total of five insurgents were killed,” Mashal said.
Interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi confirmed the death toll was five and added that “all indications and evidence shows they were linked to Haqqani”.
The Haqqani network is a faction of the Afghan Taliban whose leaders are based in neighbouring Pakistan, where Islamabad has come under immense US pressure to wage an offensive against the group.
The US Senate last week passed a resolution urging the State Department to put the Haqqani network — accused of a series of spectacular commando-style raids in Kabul — on the US list of terrorist groups.
US and Afghan officials say the network commands the support of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI.
The Nato commander in Afghanistan, US General John Allen, held talks in Islamabad Thursday with Pakistan’s army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, and said later that “significant progress” was being made in improving cooperation.
No reference was made to the Haqqani network.