10 killed as suicide group storms Afghan govt building
AFP KABUL TEN people were killed on Tuesday when suicide bombers stormed a government office in south-eastern Afghanistan, sparking a six-hour-long gun battle, officials said. Three men carrying rifles and wearing suicide vests attacked as the local Directorate of Communication was opening for the day in Sharana, the capital of the volatile province of Paktika on thePakistani border. Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry in its latest statement said that one of the bombers was killed in police shooting while two blew themselves up in the building. Three police officers and four government employees were also killed in the attack and subsequent gun battle. After a siege that lasted for hours, all the bombers were killed, ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said. “There were three suicide bombers, one of them was gunned down by police, the two others detonated themselves. “Three policemen and four civilians have been martyred, and two policemen and one civilian have been injured,” he said. The group of suicide bombers seized a building housing the directorate of communication in Sharana, the capital city of Paktika province, after killing a police guard at the gate. Police surrounded the building and two policemen were killed in the ensuing gunbattle, a ministry statement said. It was not immediately clear how the four civilians died. Taliban insurgents fighting the government of President Hamid Karzai claimed responsibility for the attack. Provincial governor Muhibullah Samim told AFP he believed the bombers had planned to target an intelligence office close to the building they had taken over. Afghan police and intelligence operatives are regular Taliban targets, along with national and foreign military forces. A Taliban bomb attack killed 10 Afghan police returning from a recruitment centre in the southern province of Helmand on December 29. The victims were members of the US-funded Afghan Local Police (ALP) set up last year and touted as key to a handover of security control, which will see all foreign combat troops leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014. The Taliban, who frequently use roadside bombs to attack Afghan and US-led NATO troops, also claimed responsibility for that attack. There are around 130,000 international troops, mainly from the United States, in Afghanistan working with government forces to combat the insurgency. Paktika province, which borders Pakistan, is one of the main strongholds of the Taliban-linked Haqqani network and one of the main routes for militant infiltration into Afghanistan from sanctuaries across the border. The US announced last year that it would focus its military operations towards the eastern provinces, where Taliban and Al Qaeda-linked militants slipped out of reach of a US-led invading force a decade ago. The Taliban announced last week that it planned to set up a political office in Qatar, widely seen as a move towards peace negotiations with Washington and its Western allies. But the fighting continues, with four Afghan National Army soldiers killed in a Taliban mortar attack in Kunar province Tuesday, provincial spokesman Wasefullah Wasefi said. “At around 1:00 pm today, several mortars fired by the insurgents hit a joint ANA and foreign troop base in Asad Abad city killing four ANA soldiers and wounding nine soldiers and a civilian,” he said.