KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban insurgents launched a coordinated attack Tuesday on the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters in the heart of the Afghan capital on Tuesday, firing rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles.
An embassy spokeswoman said no staff were reported wounded, but officials said at least one Afghan police officer and two insurgents had been killed as gunfire and explosions resounded across the city well into the afternoon.
The surge of violence was a stark reminder of the instability that continues to plague Afghanistan nearly a decade after the U.S. invasion that ousted the Taliban in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States.
It was the third major attack in Kabul since late June, casting fresh doubts on the ability of Afghans to secure their own country as the U.S. and other foreign troops prepare to withdraw by the end of 2014.
Plumes of smoke rose from the area near the embassy and U.S. Army helicopters buzzed overhead.
The gunmen were firing from a tall office building that is under construction at Abdul Haq square, which is about 300 yards (meters) from the U.S. Embassy. Police said the attack began when about half a dozen insurgents took over the building and opened fire.
“The gunbattle is continuing,” Interior Ministry spokesman Sadiq Sadiqi said.
The American Embassy is on the edge of the Wazir Akbar Khan area, which is home to a number of other foreign missions.
U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Kerri Hannan said that staff had been ordered to take cover in hardened structures.
She later issued a statement confirming an attack by gunmen firing rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire.
“We can confirm there are no casualties at this time among embassy personnel,” she said.
At least one rocket landed on a building housing privately owned Tolo TV and another near a minivan carrying school children. Associated Press reporters at the scene saw at least four wounded Afghans near Abdul Haq square.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said a number of suicide bombers were attacking Afghan and foreign soldiers at Abdul Haq square. He claimed in a text message sent to reporters that suicide bombers using assault rifles also were attacking the offices of the Afghan intelligence service.