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Two Taliban Rockets Hit U.S. Embassy in Kabul

26 December, 2013

KABUL: A pair of rockets fired by the Taliban struck the United States Embassy in Kabul shortly before dawn on Wednesday, sending hundreds of American diplomats and aid workers based at the mission scrambling into fortified bunkers to start their Christmas Day, the embassy said.

There were no reports of casualties at the embassy. But Afghan officials said that another two rockets hit other parts of the city and that three police officers were wounded when one of the rockets, which had not exploded on impact, detonated as they were trying to defuse it. The other rocket, which did explode on impact, did not cause any casualties or inflict significant damage, said Gen. Zaher Zaher, the police chief of Kabul.

The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for the attack. Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the insurgents, posted a message on his Twitter feed saying the Taliban had hit the American Embassy with four rockets and inflicted heavy casualties. But the Taliban routinely exaggerate the effectiveness of their attacks, and the embassy said no one there had been killed or wounded.

Mr. Mujahid made no reference in his Twitter post to the attack's occurring on Christmas Day. The holiday carries little significance in Afghanistan, where there are almost no Christians, and the Taliban more commonly try to time headline-grabbing attacks to Islamic holidays.

The embassy said it was assessing any damage that might have been caused by the rockets. It was not immediately clear which part of the sprawling and well-fortified compound in the center of the city had been hit or if any part of the embassy had been damaged. Staff members at the embassy were given the all-clear to move around the compound about two hours after the attack, which took place around 6:40 a.m.

Whether the Taliban had actually intended to strike the embassy was also an open question. Though rocket attacks on Kabul have been relatively infrequent in recent years, they were once more common and they rarely appeared well targeted.

A number of rockets fired in advance of the presidential election in 2009, for instance, appeared to be aimed at the presidential palace. Most ended up striking areas in the general vicinity of the palace compound, which covers dozens of acres in the middle of Kabul. Few caused serious casualties or significant damage.

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