KABUL, Afghanistan – Suicide bombers targeted Afghanistan's intelligence agency and other security forces in four coordinated attacks in the heart of Kabul and outlying areas on Sunday in a bloody reminder of the insurgency's reach nearly 12 years into the war.
The brazen assaults, which occurred within a three-hour timespan, were the latest to strike Afghan forces, who have suffered higher casualties this year as U.S. and other foreign troops gradually take a back seat and shift responsibility for security to the government.
The deadliest attack occurred just after sunrise — a suicide car bombing at the gate of the National Directorate of Security compound in Jalalabad, 78 miles east of Kabul.
Guards shot and killed the driver but he managed to detonate the explosives-packed vehicle, killing two intelligence agents and wounding three others, according to a statement by the intelligence agency. Provincial government spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzai confirmed the casualty toll and said the building was damaged in the attack.
A guard also shot and killed a man in an SUV filled with dynamite that was targeting an NDS building on a busy street in Kabul, not far from NATO headquarters. The explosives in the back of the vehicle were defused. Blood stained the driver's seat and the ground where security forces dragged out the would-be attacker.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the Jalalabad attack and two others in the eastern province of Logar in an email to reporters. He did not address the attempted assault in Kabul.
Shortly before the Jalalabad attack, a suicide attacker detonated a minivan full of explosives at a police checkpoint in Puli Alam, on the main highway between Kabul and Logar province. One policeman was killed and two others were wounded, along with a bystander, according to the NDS.
Also in Logar province, which is due south of Kabul, a man wearing a suicide vest was stopped by police as he tried to force his way into the police headquarters for the Baraki Barak district, said Din Mohammad Darwesh, the provincial government spokesman. The attacker detonated his vest while being searched, wounding one policeman, according to Darwesh and the NDS.
"Once again the enemies of peace and stability in Afghanistan ... staged coordinated attacks against the Afghan security forces and the Afghan people," the intelligence agency said.
The attacks were a reminder that insurgents are still on the offensive even as U.S. and other international forces prepare to end their combat mission by the end of 2014.
Afghan soldiers and police are easier targets than their NATO allies because their checkpoints and bases are less fortified.
More than 1,200 Afghan soldiers were killed in 2012 compared to more than 550 the previous year, according to data compiled by the Washington-based Brookings Institution.
U.S. troop deaths, meanwhile, declined overall from 404 in 2011 to 295 in 2012.