KABUL, Afghanistan – A suicide car bomber and Taliban militants disguised in burqas attacked a compound housing hundreds of foreigners in the Afghan capital on Wednesday, officials and witnesses said. The Taliban said the attack was a response to President Barack Obama's surprise visit just hours earlier.
At least six people were killed in the early morning attacks, officials said, as blasts and gunfire continued to ring out from the privately guarded compound known as Green Village that houses hundreds of international contractors.
A series of explosions and gunfire rang out near the complex in eastern Kabul at around 6 a.m. and shooting continued for hours later. Another large explosion was heard coming from inside Green Village shortly after 9 a.m. and a large plume of smoke was seen rising from the compound.
An Afghan police official said two suicide attackers were still inside Green Village and were "resisting." The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
One of the first blasts was a suicide car bomb that exploded near Jalalabad road — one of the main thoroughfares out of the city, said Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi. A station wagon that was driving past was caught up in the explosion and four people inside were killed, Sediqi said. A passer-by and a security guard for a nearby building also were killed.
A young man who saw the explosion said the dead pedestrian was one of his fellow classmates.
"I was walking to school when I saw a very big explosion. A car exploded and flames went very high into the air," said 21-year-old Mohammad Wali. "Then I saw a body of one of my classmates lying on the street. I knew it was a suicide attack and ran away. I was so afraid."
A local resident who saw the attack unfold said the attackers were disguised in burqas — the head-to-toe robes worn by conservative Afghan women.
"A vehicle stopped here and six people wearing burqas entered the alley carrying black bags in their hands. When they entered the alley, there was an explosion," said Abdul Manan.
The explosions happened hours after Obama left Afghanistan after a quick visit to mark the first anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death. He spoke to troops and signed a pact with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to govern the U.S. presence in Afghanistan through 2024.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack and said it was planned Tuesday night as a response to Obama's trip.
"This is a reaction to Obama's visit to Afghanistan," Mujahid said, without elaborating. He said the target was a "foreign military base."
NATO forces spokesman Capt. Justin Brockhoff said there were no indications that any NATO bases were under attack.
The Green Village complex, with its towering blast walls and heavily armed security force, is very similar in appearance to NATO bases in the city. An Associated Press reporter at the scene saw a group of Afghan soldiers enter the Green Village compound, after which heavy shooting could be heard coming from inside.
Outside the complex, men could be seen carrying a wounded man covered with blood, apparently pulled out of the flames engulfing a nearby car.
"These people evacuated a man from the burning car, two bodies are laying there now and three or four other victims were evacuated from the school," said Ahmad Zia, a resident who saw the explosion.
Green Village was also the target of anti-foreigner protests following the burning of Qurans at a U.S. base in February. At that time, violent protests raged outside, but the angry crowds did not breach the compound's defenses.
Associated Press writers Heidi Vogt and Rahim Faiez contributed to this report.