KABUL - Six militants in suicide vests attacked the Afghan intelligence headquarters in Kabul on Wednesday, detonating a car bomb at the gates of the compound in a co-ordinated assault that killed one person and wounded dozens, officials said.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the assault in a text message sent to The Associated Press.
The multi-pronged attack was the second to target the intelligence agency, known as the National Directorate of Security, in as many months. On Dec. 6, a Taliban suicide bomber posing as a peace messenger blew himself up while meeting with NDS chief Asadullah Khalid inside a Kabul residence. Khalid has been hospitalized in the United States with serious wounds since then.
The Taliban insurgency regularly targets Afghan army and police, but attacks against the NDS in particular show the group's ability to strike even those who are supposedly closely monitoring their activities.
One NDS guard was killed in the blast, said agency spokesman Shafiqullah Tahiri. He did not provide any information on wounded NDS agents.
Kabul police said the first attacker detonated an explosives-packed minivan at the front gate of the NDS compound and the other five, all wearing explosives strapped to their chests, piled out of a second mini-van and tried to storm the gate. Security forces killed the five gunmen, and defused explosives that were discovered in the assailants' van, a police statement said.
Tahiri, the NDS spokesman, said the bomb in the van had been set to a timer.
Mohammad Zahir, the chief of the Kabul police investigation unit, said at least 30 people were wounded. Tahiri said four of them were in critical condition.
Immediately after the blast, the wounded were rushed into in ambulances and the back of a pickup truck that sped down the icy road toward a hospital. One man waiting for an ambulance had blood streaming down his face onto his white collared shirt and sweater vest.
The blast left the twisted wreckage of at least seven cars on the street, while the windows of nearby shops were blown out and glass shards littered the pavement even two blocks away.
A heavy snow started to fall as uniformed NDS agents cordoned off the area around the gate. The blast walls at the entrance were blackened from the explosion and metal pieces — apparently the remains of the entrance gate — were twisted and strewn about.
The entire NDS compound is surrounded by tall, thick cement walls designed to protect buildings from bomb blasts.
Attacks in the heavily secured Afghan capital are less common than in the country's restive south, but they do occur and are often more sophisticated operations. They often include multiple attackers trying to penetrate the perimeter of armed guards and blast walls that surround government buildings and embassies.
The most recent attack in Kabul was on Dec. 17, when a car bomber struck outside a compound used by a U.S. military contractor. That blast killed at least two Afghan workers and wounded more than a dozen people.
A spokesman for the international military coalition, Maj. Martyn Crighton, said that Afghan forces were responding to the attack and there was no NATO involvement.
Associated Press writers Patrick Quinn and Rahim Faiez contributed to this report in Kabul.