Two gunmen besieged a compound belonging to the Afghan intelligence service in a northwestern Kabul neighborhood early Thursday, opening fire as Afghan security forces moved in to cut them off. The blast, which shattered weeks of relative calm in Kabul, also wounded at least 56, including both male and female students.
Meanwhile, Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanekzai said the attackers had fired rocket-propelled grenades as well as automatic rifles, and that security forces had held back from assaulting the building where the gunmen had taken position, Reuters reports.
With parliamentary elections due on October 20, authorities had been bracing for more attacks in Kabul and other cities, but even so, the scale of the violence has come as a shock to a government facing bitter criticism over its handling of the war.
The Foreign Office rejected on Thursday allegations that Pakistani citizens had supported the Taliban attack on Afghanistan's city of Ghazni recently.
According to local officials, over 40 security force members surrendered after they received no help nor ammunition supplies despite repeated requests.
Most of the victims were young men and women, high school graduates preparing for university entrance exams in the Shiite area's educational center.
Amnesty warned it proved "beyond any doubt that Afghanistan and, in particular, its capital Kabul, are not safe", and said European countries must stop returning Afghan refugees to the war-torn country.More news: Kante comfortable with surprise new Chelsea role
Loved ones and families of the dead held a mass funeral Thursday where mourners wept and clutched the wooden coffins.
The group has been conducting blistering attacks on security forces across Afghanistan, including the massive, days-long onslaught on Ghazni during the past week. "They are killing our educated people and every day they are killing us". "So, I believe the Taliban do not believe in peace talks", said shopkeeper Shahenshah Shahin in Kabul.
After some seven hours, officials said the two attackers were killed. After the Taliban essentially destroyed the province, the fighting had eased.
We are under attack everywhere.
In Ghazni, heavily damaged by five days of heavy fighting this week, there were warnings of the danger posed by unexploded ordnance and there were still problems with water and power but otherwise the situation was calm. He said over 400 Taliban fighters took part.
Afghan forces appeared to have finally pushed Taliban fighters from the strategic provincial capital, as the United Nations warned that reports suggested up to 150 civilians might have been killed in the fighting.