Taliban Attack IEC in Kabul
On March 29 2014, AGE launched an attack on the Headquarters of the Independent Elections Commission (IEC) in Kabul. The attack began at approximately 1220hrs, when 4 x AGE took over a disused villa close to the IEC HQ. The attackers are reported to have been disguised in burkas and suicide vests were reportedly seen.
Once they had taken over the building, the men fired at around 10-15 x RPGs at the IEC, hitting offices and a warehouse. At 1310hrs ANSF were observed at the scene firing into the villa with RPGs, SAF and heavy weapons. Numerous explosions and gunfire were heard throughout the afternoon as ANSF attempted to neutralize the threat. At approximately 1745hrs a final burst of gunfire was heard coming from the villa – this was thought to be celebratory fire from ANSF having successfully cleared the building. ANSF soldiers were seen on the roof of the building shortly after.
Up to five police were injured responding to the attack and all four attackers were killed. A warehouse storing election material was also damaged by a resulting fire but officials have said that there were no injuries at the IEC itself. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, but incorrectly stated that a VBIED had detonated at the entrance to the IEC before gunmen entered the compound.
The attack also resulted in a number of flights into Kabul International Airport being cancelled – presumably because the main flight path coming into the airport goes over the IEC.
This is the fourth high profile attack in Kabul in the last nine days and the second on an IEC building (the previous incident was on a regional IEC office in the South of Kabul City
on March 25, 2014). With a week still to go before elections, the Taliban are certainly keeping to their promise of using all force at their disposal to disrupt the 2014 elections.
Although it could be argued that today’s attack was less than successful considering the number of casualties reported, the incident gained international media attention. It showed that the Taliban can strike at numerous locations throughout Kabul at even the most high profile of targets. It also raised doubts about the ability of ANSF to provide security in Kabul during elections. It is these factors, that will stop people from voting on election day and that is the main intent of the group. The risk to election staff is also clearly high and this is also likely to be a problem. With allegations of corruption already being made, an election without enough security or election observers is unlikely to have much credibility.
It is noteworthy, that the villa used by AGE to stage the attack was empty except for a small guard force (at the time of reporting the status of the guard force is not known). It is likely that AGE researched their target carefully, identifying a building which could be used as a firing point which would be relatively easy to take over. It is also of interest that AGE tactics appear to be evolving to ensure the best chance of success. Where most high profile CPX attacks in Kabul used to be a VBIED attack followed by suicide bomb- ers attempting to storm a compound, there have been three very different TTPs noted in the four attacks seen in Kabul over the last nine days.
Further attacks are considered to be likely during the coming week, peaking on election day itself. Election related facilities, social venues and locations housing international staff are likely to be priority targets for AGE groups.