Afghan military academy attacked in latest string of high-profile militant assaults

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Suicide bombers and gunmen staged a pre-dawn attack Monday near a hilltop military academy, killing at least five Afghan soldiers and wounding 10 more, in a battle that continued through the morning rush hour, officials said. It was the latest high-profile insurgent attack in Kabul in the past week, which has been marked by an unprecedented spate of violence in Afghanistan’s war-torn capital.

Defense and police officials said insurgents assaulted an army unit guarding the heavily fortified Marshal Fahim military academy, first detonating a bomb and then attacking with rockets, gunfire and hand grenades. They said the assault was quelled after five hours, with four attackers killed and one arrested.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, but some Afghan officials said it was the work of the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network. The attack closely followed three major insurgent assaults in the capital, including one of the deadliest in years. The extraordinary series of attacks on high-profile targets seemed aimed at defying Afghan claims of progress against the insurgents, with American forces being beefed up and expanding their role in the country.

On Jan. 21, insurgents stormed a six-story luxury hotel overlooking the capital and held it all night, killing 22 people including four Americans before being defeated. On Saturday, an ambulance packed with explosives detonated in a busy area of central Kabul at lunch time, killing at least 103 people and wounding 235. In the city of Jalalabad, insurgents attacked a British-run charity, killing four. 

The government declared a national day of mourning Sunday after the ambulance bombing, the deadliest in Kabul since May 31, when a powerful truck bomb detonated in the city’s diplomatic zone, killing 150 people and wounding more than 300. Officials blamed the Haqqani network for several of the latest attacks.

Security forces were also on high alert as officials warned of other possible attacks by the Taliban and by the regional affiliate of Islamic State. Taliban spokesmen said the hotel attack was aimed at killing “foreign occupiers,” and diplomatic security alerts have warned that insurgents are likely to stage additional attacks on hotels, supermarkets and other facilities used by foreigners.

Even before the latest assault on the military compound, Afghans were up in arms over the government’s failure to secure the capital, as social media exploded with angry comments and demands for officials to resign. The escalating tensions came at a time when the government of President Ashraf Ghani is beset by internal divisions and external political threats.

Many Afghans say the current situation is even more dire than in May, when the downtown truck bombing provoked angry protests across the capital for days. The police shooting of several protesters, followed by a funeral that was also targeted by suicide bombers, further exacerbated the political turmoil. 

Constable reported from Islamabad. Sayed Salahuddin and Sharif Walid in Kabul contributed to this report. 

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