KABUL, Afghanistan - Three suicide bombers mounted a well-coordinated attack yesterday on an Afghan government building in the center of Kabul that left at least five people dead and 21 severely wounded.
The attack occurred about 11 a.m. as dozens of employees at the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture were just beginning their workday. Witnesses said that the first suicide bomber shot two security officers near the entrance of the building before detonating a vest full of explosives in a small hall on the ground floor normally used for news conferences. Meanwhile, the two other attackers - one dressed in an Afghan police uniform - made their way to separate parts of the building.
Abdul Haider Qayumi, a ministry worker, said he was on the second floor of the building when he heard first the sound of gunfire and then a deafening boom.
"The whole place was covered in dust and black smoke. We couldn't even see each other the dust was so thick," Qayumi said. "Then the only sound we heard was a voice on a loudspeaker telling us to evacuate the building because a suicide bomber was still loose inside."
Ali Shah Ahmadi, deputy chief of police in Kabul, said one of the bombers was arrested before he could detonate his explosives.
The blast collapsed one wall of the building and blew out most of the windows. Several shops and a kindergarten were also destroyed in the explosion.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the bombing was meant to target foreign advisers working at the ministry.
The attack was the first in the Afghan capital in four months and signaled the increasingly volatile security situation in the city of three million. In July, more than 50 people were killed and nearly 150 injured in Kabul after suicide bombers struck the Indian Embassy.
The bombing yesterday comes on the heels of several recent incidents involving attacks on foreign and high-profile targets in and around the capital. Two weeks ago, a dual South African-British citizen was killed by two gunmen on a motorbike as she walked to work from her home in the western end of the city. The Taliban also claimed responsibility for that attack, saying the woman, Gayle Williams, worked for a Christian aid organization that was working to convert Afghan Muslims. Officials with SERVE, the Christian charity that Williams worked for, denied that the organization was involved in proselytizing.
This week, two other people, one British and one South African, were also shot to death in Kabul.
Those attacks have sparked fears among thousands of foreign aid workers, contractors and journalists who live in Kabul.
The recent spate of violence has posed a challenge for the newly appointed head of the Ministry of Interior, Hanif Atmar.