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Central & South Asia
Afghan government compound under siege
Gunmen wearing suicide vests engaged in a shootout with Afghan security forces, killing five and injuring another six.
Last Modified: 22 May 2011 11:07
Afghan police and NATO troops fire on attackers at the Afghan traffic police headquarters in Khost province [AFP]

Gunmen wearing suicide vests stormed and occupied a traffic police building in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, killing at least five people, including three police officers.

Three or four men armed with assault rifles shot their way into the compound in the city of Khost shortly after dawn, killed a police guard and took over the second floor, firing down on police and soldiers outside. At least one of the men was thought to have detonated his vest, possibly causing the fire that broke out in the building.

Abdul Hakim Ishaqzai, Khost provincial police chief, and Mubariz Zadran, the provincial governor's spokesman, said that the attackers were believed to be suicide bombers.

Six people were injured in the attack.

The Taliban announced responsibility for the attack and said it had targeted the building because it overlooked the local base for the Afghan police Quick Reaction Force, Al Jazeera's Sue Turton said. More than 1,000 police were stationed at the base.

By midday, security forces were arranging a controlled detonation for what they believed was a car bearing an improvised explosive device outside the compound, said Turton, reporting from Kabul.

"The siege continues and the building appears to be still on fire. We understand it was only a handful of Taliban fighters who actually launched this siege and it doesn't seem that it has been brought under control so far," our correspondent said.

"According to the ministry of interior, this was very much a soft target.  At the entrance to this traffic police headquarter, where we are told, at 4:30 in the morning, there's only a couple of guards on duty."

In a separate incident, a roadside mine hit a civilian vehicle in Noorak area, Shah Joi district of Zabul province, killing two women and injuring five others including four women.
 
The wounded were taken to the nearby hospital by Afghan National Police. The ministry of interior of Afghanistan has strongly condemned this attack.

The Taliban have promised a spring offensive against NATO and foreign presence in Afghanistan and have mounted an attack nearly every day since Wednesday.

"Adding to the toll now, we are looking at over 60 people killed just since Wednesday, the majority of whom are security forces personnel, military police or local guards looking after these establishments", Al Jazeera's Turton reported.

On Saturday, Taliban suicide bombers detonated inside a military hospital in Kabul, believing American doctors were present on a training assignment, Turton added.

"At the moment it looks like the Taliban really are succeeding at getting into what are supposedly very secure areas [which] the Afghan security forces have tried very hard to lock down," she said.

In Herat on Sunday, a relatively secure western province that the Afghan government selected as one of the first places to begin a transition from NATO to Afghan-led security, a car bomb hit a bus and killed three police. 

Last month, three people died when an attacker got inside the defence ministry in Kabul and the police chief of Kandahar province was killed by his bodyguard.

Afghan forces are set to take increasing responsibility for security as foreign combat troops withdraw in a process starting from July but not due to be completed until 2014.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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