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Explosion, Gunfire Reverberate In Kabul

A wounded Afghan police officer is helped from the scene of Friday's explosion and gunfire in Kabul.
Omar Sobhani
Reuters /Landov
A wounded Afghan police officer is helped from the scene of Friday's explosion and gunfire in Kabul.

(We most recently updated the top of this post at 6:45 p.m. ET.)

An explosion followed by gunfire in Kabul on Friday claimed the lives of at least two attackers and wounded a small number of civilians. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which appeared to have been aimed at offices of the International Organization for Migration and stretched over several hours as Afghan security forces tried to hunt down those responsible.

As night fell in Kabul, it was unclear whether the incident was over or not.

NPR's Sean Carberry, who reported for us from the scene, notes that while such violence is relatively common in some parts of Afghanistan it's less so in the capital. Still, he says, it was the fourth significant attack in the city this year. The Taliban and others who oppose the government have promised to conduct "spectacular attacks" in Kabul, Sean says.

We've been monitoring the news from Kabul and updating.

Update at 6:45 p.m. ET.

NPR's Sean Carberry reports that the assault is over and that six militants have been killed, along with two police officers and one security guard.

He says the last militant was killed around 10 p.m. local time. According to General Ayoub Salangi, the Kabul police chief, in the initial attack, one assailant detonated a vehicle outside the International Organization for Migration office and two other militants detonated suicide vests. The remaining three insurgents battled Afghan forces for nearly six hours.

Five foreigners working for IOM and the United Nations were wounded, one seriously. A number of Afghan police and civilians also sustained injuries in the attack. One Afghan official told NPR there were warnings from the Taliban that an attack was coming.

Update at 12:50 p.m. ET. Shots Still Being Heard:

"The mopping-up operation continues, with sporadic arms fire still being heard," U.N. special representative Jan Kubis says in a statement just sent to reporters. In it, he also condemns the "terrorist attack."

Update at 12:25 p.m. ET. Was An International Organization for Migration Office:

The compound in Kabul that came under attack is part of the International Organization for Migration's operations in Kabul, NPR's Sean Carberry tells us he's now confirmed. That organization, which is not part of the U.N., aims to "provide secure, reliable, flexible and cost-effective services for persons who require international migration assistance."

Earlier, Sean and other correspondents had been told the offices were part of the U.N.'s operations.

He adds that he's also been told by officials that five of the people injured there were foreigners.

Update at 11:35 a.m. ET. More Details:

As they claimed responsibility for the attack, Taliban spokesmen also alleged that they were targeting a facility where Afghans are trained by the CIA, NPR's Sean Carberry tells us. He adds that there have been conflicting reports about whether the offices that were attacked are part of the U.N. Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) or the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Sean's been told they were IOM offices.

He also reports Afghan officials say that along with two of the attackers, one Afghan civilian is dead. Eight to 10 other people — including Afghan civilians, Afghan police and foreigners — are said to have been wounded.

As of this moment, says Sean, it is not clear whether the fighting is over.

Update at 11:10 a.m. ET. Two Attackers Reportedly Dead; Foreign Casualties Reported:

NPR's Sean Carberry tells our Newscast Desk that Afghan authorities say one attacker detonated an explosive vest and was killed. Another was killed during the gun fight with Afghan security forces. Two other attackers are said to still be battling with authorities at this hour. Officials also say there are some causalities among the foreigners who live or work in the area.

Update at 10:30 a.m. ET. Report Of Taliban Claiming Responsibility:

"A guesthouse for staff of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) was hit in the blast, and two of its staff were injured. A Taliban spokesman told the BBC that the guesthouse had been targeted."

NPR's Sean Carberry, reporting from Kabul

Update at 9:30 a.m. ET. AUDIO Report From NPR's Correspondent, Including Sound Of Gunfire.

Sean Carberry just spoke with our Newscast Desk. As he was talking about what was happening, more gunfire could be heard:

"It started with a large explosion that has shattered windows for a few blocks away from the site," Sean said. "It's been followed by heavy volleys of gunfire — heavy weapons, light weapons. As you can hear right now there's another volley of fire going on. What is still unclear: They have not been able to determine the targets of the blast — there's a U.N. guest house [and] there are some other offices in the area where this happened." ( Note at 12:25 p.m. ET: Sean has since learned that the facility was an office of the International Organization for Migration, which is not part of the U.N.)

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.