Explosions on Independence Day: Snapshots From Kabul, Take 3

Smoke Explosion Afghanistn Kabul 18 August 2011 Rachel Lipsey.jpg(photo credit:  Rachel Lipsey; click image for larger version)

At about 5:43 am, a very large explosion shook my hotel in Kabul.  This is Afghanistan Independence Day today, a national holiday. 

About eight minutes later, I heard another explosion.  At first I didn't know if this was a rocket or bomb blast -- but it now appears from other reports and talking to guards here that these were bombs.

I am told that the bombs hit in the Karte Parwan part of Kabul -- though I'm being told this by a local resident as we watch the smoke billow up.  It's not far from where I am at the moment.

@AfghanPolicy just tweeted that this is a residential area, where Afghanistan Vice President Mohammed Fahim lives.

So far, I have seen four US black hawk helicopters racing to the scene.  More black hawk helicopters -- or perhaps same two circling.  Tough to tell.

Am not going to the site.  Will report more when I know something beyond what I'm seeing.

UPDATE:  Reports coming in but unconfirmed -- just getting from locals here who are connected by phone messaging networks in Kabul -- that target was UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.  Black hawk helicopters broadening circle they are flying over -- over my head right now.

UPDATE 2:  Now conflicting reports coming in that the target was the British Consulate.  I am not there seeing on the street but not far away -- but am receiving emails stating that the target was not UNAMA but rather the British operation.

UPDATE 3:  Correction.  Helicopters are Apaches.  My Iraq war veteran friend misidentified them.  Have a very good pic of helicopter than flew over my head which will post later.  But copters are Apaches.  Five gun shots just fired close by to us.

UPDATE 4:  After five gun shots, helicopters flew over head.  Now all eerily quiet all of a sudden.  Hear one last helicopter in the far distance.

UPDATE 5:  I was nearly shot on the roof of my hotel.  Three bullets hit building near my head.  Not going outside anymore.  Machine gun fire constant.  This is huge attack.  Gunfire all around hotel and down street.  Heard bullet race past my head.  All friends on this trip OK - but now staying in Safe Room of hotel.  All further updates will be via Twitter at @SCClemons.  Afghanistan News has live coverage of the bombing, and ongoing hunt for the insurgents.  Coordinated attacks today all over Afghanistan. 

Wow.  More machine gun fire now just outside. 
OK -- the rest at @SCClemons on Twitter

UPDATE 6:  Heard another explosion a short while ago, and a short spate of gunfire.  This is a picture of one of the bullets that went racing by my head.

UPDATE 7:  Things seem to be quiet now.  No more guns.  Three people trapped in a bunker in the British Council offices have been freed.  Afghans getting back to enjoying their National Independence Day holiday.  Signing off on this feed for a while -- need to pack and get to airport where I very much hope there is no drama today.

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Steve Clemons is Washington editor at large for The Atlantic and editor of Atlantic Live. He writes frequently about politics and foreign affairs. More

Clemons is a senior fellow and the founder of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, a centrist think tank in Washington, D.C., where he previously served as executive vice president. He writes and speaks frequently about the D.C. political scene, foreign policy, and national security issues, as well as domestic and global economic-policy challenges.

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