Kabul: Taliban bombers attacked a heavily fortified guesthouse used by Westerners in Kabul on Wednesday, announcing the start of their annual "spring offensive" in defiance of calls from US President Barack Obama during a visit to Afghanistan that the war was ending.
Seven people were killed after attackers dressed in burqas detonated a suicide car bomb and clashed with guards at the "Green Village" complex of guesthouses used by the European Union, the United Nations and aid groups, officials said.
The attackers` ability to penetrate a tightened security cordon in the capital raises fresh concern about the resilience of the insurgency on the anniversary of Osama bin Laden`s death as NATO winds down its combat presence in the next two years and hands over responsibility for security to Afghan forces.
The Taliban said the assault was a riposte to Obama, who just hours earlier signed a new partnership pact set to govern Afghan-US relations after 2014.
In an election-year address, Obama presented himself as a commander-in-chief capable of ending two long wars, following the US troop withdrawal from Iraq, and of crushing al-Qaeda, and tried to conjure up a new dawn for a US public exhausted by conflict and recession.
"This time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end," Obama said, recalling a decade-long "dark cloud of war" after bin Laden plotted the September 11 attacks in 2001.
"Yet here, in the pre-dawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon," said Obama, seeking a second White House term later this year.
Obama flew into Kabul in secret in the dead of night and signed a deal with President Hamid Karzai, cementing 10 years of US aid for Afghanistan after NATO combat troops leave in 2014.
"We look forward to a future of peace. We`re agreeing to be long-term partners," Obama said at Karzai`s palace. The US president left after six hours on the ground. About two hours later, the Green Village assault began.