Report: Taliban suicide bombers strike Afghan intelligence headquarters

A minivan laden with high explosives detonated outside the main gates of the government compound housing the Afghan National Directorate of Security and other ministerial officers in downtown Kabul. 

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An Afghan Ministry of Interior security guard was killed and over 30 others wounded in the blast, which destroyed nearby buildings and vehicles and could be felt by residents three blocks away from the attack, according to the Associated Press. 

Shortly after the initial bombing, several Taliban fighters armed with suicide vests pulled up to the blast site in an attempt to storm the compound and inflict further damage to NDS headquarters. 

Afghan security forces killed the would-be bombers before they could breach the compound's perimeter and were able to defuse a second bomb discovered in the gunmen's van, the AP reports. 

Wednesday's attack was the latest attempt by Taliban forces to dismantle Afghanistan's nascent intelligence division just as the NDS is set to take on a larger role in the country's security operations. 

President Obama announced last Friday that U.S. and NATO forces would completely hand over control of all security operations in Afghanistan to local forces by this spring. 

Initially, American and allied leaders had planned to hand over control sometime in 2014, shortly before U.S. combat forces are scheduled to withdraw from the country. 

The acceleration of the security handover was part of a larger post-war plan agreed to by Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai during last week's visit by the Afghan leader to Washington. 

As a result, the NDS has been a frequent target of Taliban leaders in recent months. 

Taliban fighters attempted to kill Afghan intelligence chief Asadullah Khalid in a failed suicide bombing last December. 

Khalid was injured in the attack but ultimately survived the assassination attempt, which took place at one of the NDS safe houses in central Kabul. 

He also survived a previous attempts on his life back in 2008 and 2011 during his time as the provincial governor of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. 

The intelligence division has been relatively immune to the level of Taliban infiltration and subsequent "insider attacks" that have plagued the ranks of the Afghan National Security Forces. 

But an Afghan officer with the NDS killed a CIA agent and an Army intelligence officer in a suicide bombing of an Afghan intelligence outpost in the Maruf district in Kandahar province last October. 

Shortly after the attack, Shafiqullah Tahiri, a spokesman for Afghanistan's National Security Directorate, dismissed claims that the Maruf district bombing was carried out by an NDS agent. 

While Tahiri noted the bomber was wearing an Afghan intelligence agency uniform at the time of the attack, the attacker somehow obtained the uniform to gain access to the Maruf facility, he said at the time.