KABUL — With security concerns already mounting before the presidential vote in Afghanistan, a Taliban assault team turned election offices in eastern Kabul into a scene of carnage Tuesday. After a firefight that stretched more than three hours and trapped dozens of people in the compound, five victims lay dead and the Afghan capital had again been proven vulnerable.
Two of the five attackers detonated their explosives belts at the gate of the compound, while three others rushed in armed with assault rifles, police said. Even as the attack was unfolding, the Taliban claimed responsibility, reemphasizing their campaign to disrupt the April 5 election and punish those involved in it.
The victims included two police officers, an election worker, and a provincial council candidate, officials said. At least six other people were reported wounded.
A spokesman for the Interior Ministry, Sediq Seddiqi, said police had responded quickly, rescuing more than 70 people trapped in the compound before killing the remaining attackers. The compound is near the home of a leading presidential candidate, Ashraf Ghani, who was not home at the time, officials said.
At the scene of the attack, it was hard to see how anyone survived. Body parts and blood covered the street and courtyard. The building appeared a bombed-out shell.
After months of relative calm, Kabul has again been the scene of troubling attacks in recent weeks, stirring unease among Afghan and international officials here and raising questions about security for an election seen as critical to the country’s stability after the Western military pullout by year’s end.
Officials hope the Taliban’s campaign of violence will not be enough to intimidate voters from taking part in the high-stakes election. With three main contenders vying for the presidency, observers hope turnout will be higher than for the 2009 election, when most expected Hamid Karzai to win and widespread violence kept many from voting.