Monday, April 18, 2011

Afghanistan: Taliban militant kills 2 inside Defense Ministry

(Associated Press/MSNBC) - KABUL, Afghanistan — A Taliban militant opened fire inside the Afghan Defense Ministry on Monday, killing two Afghan soldiers in the latest daring attack inside a government or military installation.

The Taliban said one of their agents who was also an army officer planned the attack to coincide with a visit of the French defense minister. French officials said the minister, Gerard Longuet, was not in the ministry at the time.

Despite the Taliban claim, Afghan military officials said it was not immediately clear whether the assailant — who was wearing a vest rigged with explosives — was an enlisted soldier or an insurgent disguised in a military uniform. The vest did not explode.

The assaults over the past four days — first inside a police headquarters, then a base shared with American troops and now the heart of the Afghan military establishment — signal the start of the Taliban's spring offensive after a relative lull over the frigid Afghan winter.

Afghanistan's war usually follows an annual cycle, with fighting increasing in the spring and summer as insurgents pour over the mountainous border from Pakistan. But the recent security breaches suggests that the Taliban are getting better at striking at the core of the Afghan security forces.

The ferocity of the Taliban's spring offensive will help determine whether the surge of more than 30,000 additional U.S. troops that President Barack Obama announced in December 2009 succeeded in arresting the insurgency.

The string of attacks since Friday shows that while the insurgents have suffered setbacks in their southern strongholds, they still have a slate of militants willing to take on deadly missions.