KABUL: A Taliban suicide bomber and six gunmen attacked the Afghan Parliament  on Monday as lawmakers met to consider a new defence minister. The brazen assault on the symbolic centre of power highlights how NATO-trained Afghan security forces are struggling to cope with worsening militant violence. Today’s attack began as lawmakers met the new acting defence minister, Masoom Stanikzai. He is the third candidate so far for the key security post, and his appointment must be confirmed by the Parliament. A Taliban fighter detonated a car loaded with explosives outside Parliament gates, said Ebadullah Karimi, spokesman for Kabul police, raising questions about how the driver got through several security checkpoints. Six gunmen took up positions in a building near Parliament, he said, but never breached the compound’s gates. Security forces killed the six after a gun battle lasting nearly two hours. Kabul police chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi said all lawmakers were safe. TV pictures showed the speaker sitting calmly and legislators leaving the building, engulfed in dust and smoke, without panicking. A woman and a child were killed and around 30 civilians were wounded in the attack, according to Rahimi. He said the assailants were armed with assault rifles and rocket propelled grenades. Some lawmakers’ bodyguards fired sporadically during the attack, hampering the response by Afghan forces, he added. Police will investigate how the attackers got so close to Parliament. “We have appointed a delegation to find the weak point or points and report it back to us,” Rahimi said. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility. “We have launched an attack on Parliament, as there was an important gathering to introduce the country’s defence minister,” he said over phone, referring to Stanikzai. Farhad Sediqi was one of several lawmakers who criticised security agencies for not preventing the attack. “It shows a big failure in the intelligence and security departments of the government,” he said. High-profile assaults •    Last month, car bombs targeted the Ministry of Justice, and attackers stormed two guesthouses used by foreigners •    In 2013 the presidential palace was hit •    The US embassy has been attacked several times, notably in 2011 when nine people were killed and 27 wounded in coordinated strikes on the embassy and other targets