Eight die in Kabul attack after Obama trip

Kabul, May 2: Eight people were killed and 17 injured in an audacious Taliban attack in the Afghan capital Wednesday, hours after US President Barack Obama’s Kabul visit that came exactly a year after Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was gunned down in Pakistan.

The brazen attacks were mounted after Obama left Kabul following a previously unannounced visit during which he signed a strategic partnership agreement with his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai.

Taliban militants resorted to suicide bombings and fought a pitched battle with security forces.

Two blasts took place inside a fortified residential compound used by the foreign staff of international organizations in eastern part of Afghan capital of Kabul.

A suicide car bomb targeted the entrance gate of the compound called Green Village in Pul-i-Charkhi area at about 6.15 a.m., enabling other heavily-armed militants to enter the complex, a police officer near the site told Xinhua.

An intense gunfight broke out in the area.

At least one Nepalese security guard and five civilians have been killed and 17 injured in the attack, according to officials. The dead include suicide bombers.

The Pul-i-Charkhi area where the attack occurred is located on Jalalabad road, the main way out of the capital to the east till the border with Pakistan. Several US and NATO military camps are located nearby.

The area was cordoned off by security forces and police were on high alert across Kabul while several helicopters hovered over the area.

This is the second coordinated attack in the insurgency-hit country over the past two weeks.

A total of 51 people including 36 attackers were killed and 74 injured when Taliban launched a major attack in Kabul and three other eastern cities April 15.

Obama signed a cooperation agreement with Afghanistan as he paid an unannounced visit to the war-torn country Tuesday.

“Afghanistan has a friend and a partner in the United States,” said Obama before he and Karzai signed the Strategic Partnership Agreement outlining cooperation between their countries once the US-led international force withdraws in 2014, CNN reported.

Obama, on his third trip to Afghanistan since taking office, also addressed troops at Bagram Air Field.

During the signing ceremony, the US president said neither country asked for the war which began over a decade earlier, but now they would work in partnership for a peaceful future.

Addressing concerns in Afghanistan that the US would abandon the country once its troops leave, Obama said: “With this agreement, I am confident that the Afghan people will understand that the United States will stand by them.”

“We came here with a very clear mission to destroy Al Qaeda,” he said as the day marked a year after Osama was gunned down by US commandos in Pakistan’s Abbottabad town.

Obama’s visit to Afghanistan came a week after the Afghan and US governments finalised the US-Afghan strategic pact’s draft.

The agreement, which paves the way for long-term US military presence in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the NATO-led coalition force from the country by 2014, has been welcomed by local analysts as a security stabilising factor in Afghanistan.

At present, there are over 90,000 US troops in Afghanistan and the US is expected to draw down that number to 65,000 by the end of 2012 and to less than 20,000 by the end of 2014.

IANS