Suicide bombers have killed at least 19 people and wounded another 35 in an attack on government offices in the capital of Uruzgan, a province in southern Afghanistan, and a subsequent gun battle between attackers and Afghan security forces, officials said.
Up to six gunmen stormed compounds of the provincial governor and the police chief in Tirin Kot, the Uruzgan capital, on Thursday, Sediq Sediqqi, Afghanistan interior ministry spokesman, said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the explosive-packed vehicles detonated near the two compounds and a third office used by Mitullah Khan, a powerbroker who runs a company that provides security for NATO supply convoys.
Khan Agan Nehakhil, head of Uruzgan's health department, told the Reuters news agency that security forces and civilians, including one journalist, were among the 19 people killed.
Nehakhil said another 37 were wounded.
The British Broadcasting Corporation has confirmed that Ahmed Omed Khpulwak, its 25-year-old Afghan stringer based in Uruzgan, was the journalist killed.
Khpulwak was in the local radio and television building in Tarin Kot at the time of attack, Peter Horrocks, director of BBC Global News said in a statement.
Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, expressed sadness over Khpulwak’s death and accused pro-government forces of killing him.
“He was not our target” Ahmadi told the Associated Press (AP) on Thursday.
“We were fighting the headquarters of the police.”
Series of attacks
Thursday's assault came a day after Ghulam Haidar Hameedi, mayor of Kandahar city, was killed by a man wielding a bomb in his turban.
Abdul Razaq, the Kandahar police chief, said Hameedi was meeting some elders from a district of Kandahar when one of them got close to the target and detonated a bomb hidden in his turban.
Claiming responsibility for Wednesday's attack, Ahmadi, the Taliban spokesperson, told the AP that Hameedi had ordered the destruction of homes that city officials claimed had been illegally constructed.
Ahmadi said the Taliban killed him to avenge the deaths of two children, who the groups allege were killed during the demolition work.
Hameedi was buried on Wednesday.
Afghanistan's Taliban has been involved in many prominent assassinations in the recent past, and Hameedi's killing is the third assassination of a major political figure in the last one month.
Ryan Crocker, the new US ambassador to Afghanistan, and General John Allen, the new commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, condemned the killing.
"It is an indication of the challenges ahead," Crocker said during his first briefing at the US embassy in Kabul.
He said the recent string of assassinations could be an indication that the Taliban "have been damaged to the point that they are resorting to terrorist attacks.
"Clearly these are horrific attacks but they can also be interpreted as a sign of organisational weakness on the part of the adversary".
Both Thursday's attacks and Hameedi's assasination come two weeks after President Hamid Karzai's half-brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai- one of the most powerful men in southern Afghanistan - was killed in his home.
Hameedi, who lived in the US for nearly two decades before returning to Afghanistan after the collapse of the Taliban in 2001, was considered to be Wali Karzai's ally in Kandahar.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies