Explosions and gunfire rocked the area of Kabul where several embassies and the NATO base in the city are located. The presidential palace of Hamid Karzai also came under attack with heavy gunfire that lasted about 30 minutes after the first explosions.
Huffington Post reports the Taliban focused their attacks on the "Green Zone" area of the city in which international embassies and the NATO compound are located, and also on the west of Kabul near the Afghan national parliament building. AFP reports gunmen broke into the Afghan parliament, but defenders, including lawmakers and bodyguards, fought to repel the attack by firing from rooftop. Hamid Karzai was moved to a safe area after his palace came under attack.
The insurgents, according to AFP, were armed with heavy machine guns, rocket propelled grenades and suicide vests.
Huffington Post reports that suicide bombers hit the British and American embassies in Kabul. The British Foreign office said no embassy staff was missing. The German embassy in Kabul also came under attack. Fire and smoke was seen rising from the compound. According to Al Jazeera, the Russian embassy was attacked and three rockets landed in the compound of the Japanese embassy.
According to Reuters, a rocket-propelled grenade hit the home of a British diplomat in Kabul. Latest reports say smoke was seen coming from the building.
Huffington Post reports the Taliban captured the newly built Kabul Star Hotel. The hotel building was reported to be on fire.
According to AFP, Lutfullah Mashal, a spokesman of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), said one of Karzai's deputies was targeted in the Sunday attacks, but three men sent to attack the deputy's house were captured. The men said they were linked to the Haqqani Network, a hardcore group of the Taliban with close links to Al-Qaeda.
The Afghan government has confirmed that attacks have also been launched in other parts of the country. Suicide attacks were reported in the eastern city of Jalalabad, and the airport is under attack. In the city of Gardez, a police station came under attack.
The Afghan National Army has been deployed to defend the city. AFP reports fighting continued throughout the afternoon and evening with militants launching rocket propelled grenades and engaging Afghan forces in gun battles.
Zabihullah Mujahid, Taliban spokesman, told Reuters that they have launched attacks as part of what he termed the "spring offensive." Mujahid said: "These attacks are the beginning of the spring offensive and we had planned them for months." Reuters reports the Taliban say the assault is to avenge recent incidents in the country, including the burning of Korans and the massacre of Afghan civilians by a U.S. soldier.
The latest attacks are the biggest in Kabul for many years. The last time the Taliban mounted an attack of comparable scale was on September 11, when rockets were fired on the U.S. Embassy.
The attacks will raise concern about the aftermath of the planned withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.