Taliban announce ‘spring offensive’ in Afghanistan after attack leaves seven dead

Taliban insurgents claimed a suicide attack in the Afghan capital Kabul, shortly after US President Barack Obama left the city after an overnight visit. (AFP)

The Taliban also announced they would launch their annual “spring offensive” across Afghanistan on Thursday, threatening to target U.S.-led NATO troops and their allies with renewed vigor.

Code-named Al-Farouq, the primary targets of the offensive would be “foreign invaders, their advisors, their contractors, all those who help them militarily and in intelligence”, the militants said on their website.

“Al-Farouq spring offensive will be launched on May 3 all over Afghanistan,” the militant group said.

The militia said the code name came from Islam's second caliph, Omar Al-Farouq known for his military advances in Asia and the Arab world during the 7th century.

Taliban insurgents claimed a suicide attack in the Afghan capital Kabul, shortly after US President Barack Obama left the city after an overnight visit. (AFP)

The announcement came hours after Taliban insurgents armed with guns, suicide vests and a bomb-laden car attacked a heavily fortified compound used by Westerners in Kabul, killing seven people and wounding more than a dozen others.

The militants claimed the attack in defiance of U.S. President Barack Obama’s call that the war was ending during a visit to Afghanistan on the first anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death on Wednesday.

Obama left Kabul only hours before the attacks after signing a strategic agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

“One of our mujahideen detonated his car in front of a military base. Other mujahideen are inside the base fighting. There are very heavy casualties for the enemy,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters in a phone call.

Mujahid also said the attack was in response to Obama’s signing of thestrategic pact with President Hamid Karzai’s government.

The U.S. embassy, which neighbors the AFP bureau in Kabul, said its embassy was “under lockdown” and warned staff to “take cover, move away from the windows.”

Obama earlier dropped from night skies into Kabul on a brief visit amid secrecy and tight security and signed a deal with President Hamid Karzai, cementing 10 years of U.S. aid for Afghanistan after NATO combat troops leave in 2014.

The attack was a reminder of the extremist threat that stalks Afghanistan, with the Taliban resurgent a decade after they were driven from power for refusing to hand over Bin Laden following the 9/11 attacks.

“Duck and cover here at the embassy. Not a drill -- avoid the area,” the U.S. embassy said on Twitter.

Karzai said the U.S. pact “is not threatening any third country, including the neighboring countries, but we are hoping that this leads to stability, prosperity and development in the region.”

“Neither Americans nor the Afghan people asked for this war, yet for a decade we’ve stood together,” Obama said at the signing ceremony.

“We look forward to a future of peace. We’re agreeing to be long-term partners,” said Obama, who later headed home aboard Air Force One after just six hours on the ground.

The pact, agreed last month, sees the possibility of American forces staying behind to train Afghan forces and pursue the remnants of al-Qaeda for 10 years after 2014.

It does not commit Washington to specific troop or funding levels for Afghanistan, though is meant to signal U.S. foes that despite ending the longest war in U.S. history, Washington intends to ensure Afghanistan does not revert to a haven for terror groups like al-Qaeda.

But after a war that has cost the lives of nearly 3,000 U.S. and allied troops, maimed tens of thousands more, saw thousands of Afghans killed and cost hundreds of billions of dollars, Afghanistan’s future is deeply uncertain.

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