(JALALABAD, Afghanistan) — Taliban insurgents have laid siege to several Kabul neighborhoods, targeting military bases, diplomatic residences, a hotel and Afghanistan’s parliament in a series of brazen, coordinated attacks carried out in broad daylight on Sunday.
Up to seven different locations in the city were targeted, including neighborhoods frequented by military and government officials, according to a statement from NATO.
Four suicide bombers also attempted to attack the Jalalabad airfield where Afghan and NATO forces are based.
One attacker blew himself up, while the other three were apprehended before they could strike, according to the airfield commander.
A vehicle laden with explosives was also found parked next to the Afghan parliament building, but the explosives were defused before it could detonate, according to local officials.
The assaults began with a series of explosions – up to ten, according to reports – followed by gunfire that sent women and children in busy streets scurrying for cover.
The gunfire could be heard echoing through the city for more than an hour after the initial explosions.
It’s believed the gunmen then holed themselves up in a number of unoccupied buildings, including a building next to the Kabul Star hotel, using them as launching pads for rocket propelled grenades towards nearby targets.
Some of the heaviest fighting took place in the upscale Wazir Akbar Khan district, home to the British, Turkish and Iranian embassies.
Local TV reports say at least three rockets hit the Japanese Embassy, though there are no reports of any casualties.
The U.S. embassy, along with many other western embassies, was immediately put into lockdown.
The emergency measure follows “standard operating procedures after hearing explosions and gunfire in the area,” according to U.S. Embassy Spokesperson Gavin Sundwall.
Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesperson, said in a statement that the attacks mark the beginning of the annual spring offensive and were months in the planning.
As the gunfire erupted, at least one member of Parliament picked up firearms, went to a nearby rooftop, and joined Afghan police in firing back at the militants, vowing to defend the country with their own blood, according to reports from Afghan media.
Although there are no reports of anyone killed, today’s attacks raise serious questions about the ability of Afghan forces to defend their own capital, as the U.S. begins a major drawdown of 23,000 troops by the end of the summer. U.S. forces expect to fully withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN