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Reporter's Notebook: Security Felt 'Loose' Ahead Of Afghan Parliament Attack

The scene from inside the Afghan parliament building following an attack by Taliban militants in Kabul on.
The scene from inside the Afghan parliament building following an attack by Taliban militants in Kabul on.

It is tempting to put it down to hindsight; one's mind playing tricks after the shock of a tragedy.

A huge blast that launched smoke, dust, and shards of glass through the halls of the Afghan parliament. Lawmakers and visitors caught up in the ensuing panic, running and screaming but unsure which way to flee. Bursts of gunfire signaling some sort of running battle as I and others huddled in a small room where we were herded by security troops, awaiting our fate.

In the end, two civilians lay dead and more than 30 others were wounded in the June 22 attack, which was later claimed by the Taliban. But no lawmakers or other senior officials were seriously injured, and security forces look to have prevented an even higher death count. All six gunmen lay dead, in addition to the suicide car bomber whose detonation directly in front of the parliament building sent us scrambling for safety.

Still, part of me wonders as much about what preceded this attack as about the attack itself.

There was just something different about the otherwise routinely rigorous security outside the Afghan National Assembly this morning. Instead of the usual multiple checkpoints born of past tragedy -- and heightened following the deadly suicide attack on female lawmaker Shukria Barekzai's convoy in November 2014 (she survived) -- entering parliament today felt as simple as entering my own home.

Which is puzzling, since one of the main items on the legislative agenda was a vote on President Ashraf Ghani's nominee for defense minister, Masum Stanekzai.

But security, to me, felt unusually loose on the morning of June 22.

I've covered many sessions of the Afghan parliament, and it usually takes us 10 to 15 minutes to make our way from Dar-ul Aman street through the various checkpoints and into parliament.

Usually, police on Dar-ul Aman street, which fronts the National Assembly and has been the site of numerous past attacks, check every passing car and every driver's documents. They don't allow ordinary cars to enter the area.

Every other time we correspondents traveled to parliament, security personnel checked our documents and vehicle thoroughly. Even then, we were never allowed to drive next to the building -- we would have to drive to the rear of the building.

Explosions, Smoke, and Chaos

Today, there were virtually no police or other security personnel in sight. There was no security ring. We passed very easily.

One exception, a soldier who asked, "Which media organization do you belong to?" simply opened the gate and waved us through after I called out, "Radio Ozodi" -- the local name for RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan.

No one even checked my press card today, and I was through in what felt like little more than about half a minute. I proceeded to the area where female security personnel check women visitors.

Once inside, I and other reporters watched as lawmakers conducted their business, with all of us expecting the nominee for defense minister to arrive. The session, a possible showdown over the last unfilled cabinet post in the so-called unity government, was being broadcast live.

Suddenly, we felt and heard a huge explosion.

Even as the chamber filled with smoke and chaos broke out, the parliamentary speaker remained at the microphone, trying to calm people by telling them at one point, "Don't be afraid, it's an electrical shock."

More explosions followed. People were running about, some of their faces covered in blood. Security personnel helped us into another hall, where we could only guess at what was happening as we continued to hear sporadic gunfire. We all feared that the attackers would enter the room where we'd sought shelter at any moment.

WATCH: The Aftermath Of The Attack On The Afghan Parliament

Aftermath Of Taliban Attack On Afghan Parliament
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Soon, security forces led us into another, much smaller room. The sounds of gunfire, shattering glass, and screams continued.

Finally, around 20-25 minutes later, we were ushered to what we were told was a safe area and we managed to leave the parliament through a rear door -- near where I recalled us so easily pulling up that day without anyone so much as checking my press credentials before letting us into one of Afghanistan's most prominent symbols of a fledgling democracy.

Reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent in Kabul Weda Bareki with contributions by Farangis Najibullah