KABUL: Taliban insurgents attacked the Afghan election commission’s heavily-fortified headquarters in Kabul on Saturday, one week ahead of voting and after a series of bloody attacks in the city.
Quick-response teams rushed to the area as rockets and gunfire were unleashed from a nearby building, according to officials.
“I can confirm an attack at the IEC (Independent Election Commission) headquarters,” IEC spokesperson Noor Mohammad Noor told AFP.
“We heard two explosions inside the IEC compound, the sound of firing is still ongoing, but people are safe and are in (reinforced) safe rooms.”
Taliban insurgents claimed responsibility for the attack via a recognized Twitter account.
On Tuesday, Taliban militants stormed a separate IEC office in Kabul, killing five people.
Interior Ministry spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi said: “Initial information shows that three or four attackers have occupied a building and are firing on the IEC office.”
The venue had been due to hold a press conference shortly after the attack to announce security preparations for the vote.
Saturday’s assault came the day after Taliban suicide attackers raided a Kabul guesthouse used by a U.S. anti-landmine charity, killing two people.
The guesthouse attack was the fourth this year in Kabul targeting foreigners or places where foreigners congregate.
The Taliban have vowed a campaign of violence to disrupt the polls on April 5, urging their fighters to attack polling staff, voters and security forces in the run-up to election day.
Last Thursday four Taliban gunmen smuggled pistols into Kabul’s high-security Serena hotel and shot dead nine people including four foreigners.
The victims also included Agence France-Presse journalist Sardar Ahmad, his wife and two of their three children.
Those attacks followed the daylight shooting of a Swedish radio journalist and an assault in January on a Lebanese restaurant that killed 21 people including 13 foreigners.
The vote to choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai, barred constitutionally from seeking a third term, will be Afghanistan’s first-ever democratic handover of power.
But there are fears of a repeat of the bloodshed that marred the 2004 and 2009 elections, when the Taliban displayed their opposition to the U.S.-backed polls through violence.
Another bloody election would damage claims by international donors that the expensive intervention in Afghanistan has made progress in establishing a functioning state.