A Taliban suicide bomber and six gunmen attacked the Afghan parliament on Monday (22 June), wounding at least 19 people and sending a plume of black smoke across Kabul, as a second district in two days fell to the Islamist terror group in the north.
TV pictures showed the moment the blast happened – the speaker sitting calmly and legislators leaving the building, engulfed in dust and smoke, without panicking.
The attack began when a Taliban fighter driving a car loaded with explosives blew up outside parliament gates, said Ebadullah Karimi, spokesman for Kabul police, raising questions about how the driver got through several security checkpoints.
Six gunmen took up positions in a building near parliament, he said. Security forces killed the six after a gun battle lasting nearly two hours. Kabul police chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi said all lawmakers were safe.
Four women were among the 19 wounded, said Sayed Kabir Amiri, a health official who coordinates Kabul hospitals. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility.
"We have launched an attack on parliament as there was an important gathering to introduce the country's defence minister," he said by phone.
The withdrawal of foreign forces and a reduction in US air strikes have allowed Taliban fighters, which ruled Afghanistan with an iron fist from 1996 to 2001, to launch several major attacks in important provinces.
The attack on the symbolic centre of power, one of the most brazen in years, along with a series of Taliban gains elsewhere, raise questions about the NATO-trained Afghan security forces' ability to cope and how far the militants can advance.