By mid-morning, the main battle was at the Grand Afghan Shopping Centre, a large indoor shopping mall near the justice ministry and presidential palace in the centre of the town that was ablaze, with gunmen holed up inside.
A large explosion could be heard later in another part of the central district of diplomatic and government offices. Private Tolo television said it was a suicide car-bomb outside another shopping mall.
Defence Ministry spokesman Zaher Azimy said of the scene at the Grand Afghan Shopping Centre: “The store is under siege and we are involved in clash with those inside. Some security forces have managed to get inside the store.”
… Mohammad Shah, a shopkeeper in the centre, said: “There was an explosion at the presidential palace gate and then three people who looked like suicide bombers entered the shopping centre and went to the second and third floor.
“There were gunshots from security people, there was black smoke inside the building and the security guys escorted us out,” he said. “People carrying RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) went inside the basement … the second and third floor are partly burned down.”
Quqnoos is reporting (click link for a photo):
An unknown number of downtown buildings were on fire, with smoke billowing above.
This is apparently the biggest militant operation ever conducted in Kabul for several years, targeting government buildings and shopping centres.
Streets in the centre of the city have been closed and hotels and government buildings have been locked down.
This attack comes only six days after Sen. Carl Levin, commenting on his briefings in Afghanistan last week, said:
he had seen “a significant increase in optimism about possibility of success in Afghanistan.”
… Levin continued, “Our counterinsurgency strategy may be taking hold. We are offering terms of security better than the false security offered by the Taliban.”
And only six days after Gen. Stanley McChrystal was “asked if Nato-led forces were shifting the momentum against Taliban insurgents?” His reply: “I believe we’re doing it right now.