At least one lawmaker, Mohammad Hamid Lalai Hamidzai of Kandahar, fired back at insurgents from the roof of the parliament building.
“I have four of my armed bodyguards. We are using my personal guns, and we have exchanged fire with the attackers,” he said by telephone.
Although the Taliban has successfully executed spectacular attacks in the capital before — including the protracted attack on the U.S. Embassy in September — insurgents have rarely attacked so many disparate targets simultaneously.
Even if the attacks’ consequences were relatively muted, the insurgency’s ability to navigate the security structures in and around Kabul, as well as other provincial capitals where attacks occurred, strikes at the heart of one of NATO’s greatest fears — that the Taliban will shift its efforts away from the battlefield and focus on destabilizing the country with a string of spectacular, urban attacks. Much of Western military strategy in restive eastern Afghanistan hinges on keeping insurgents away from the capital.
In addition to the attacks in Jalalabad and Kabul, insurgents attacked a public university in Paktia province and Afghan installations in Logar province. Some of the attackers wore women’s clothes to conceal their faces and packed unmarked trucks and vans with explosives and weapons.
In a statement released Sunday night, NATO played down the significance of the incidents, calling them “largely ineffective.”
But well after midnight, the fighting in Kabul still appeared to be intense. NATO helicopters flew over residential neighborhoods while gunfire was exchanged below.
By early evening Sunday, Sediqi said, Afghan police had killed 19 insurgents. The National Directorate of Security, the country’s intelligence branch, announced that two would-be suicide bombers had been detained before they could reach their targets.
Through the night, crowds remained near the unfinished eight-story building in Kabul, including workers who fled the construction site when the violence began. Some of them had colleagues and relatives still stuck in the building and adjoining shops. One of those workers, Ali Jan, 37, had been communicating by phone with his brother, who had been stuck inside for seven hours. Shortly after sunset, the phone went dead.
“I’m worried,” Jan said, “but my brother told me he was in a safe room. He told me he would be okay.”
Special correspondents Javed Hamdard and Sayed Salahuddin contributed to this report.