Three Afghan policemen have been killed and several coalition troops wounded in a Taliban attack against a government official’s office in eastern Afghanistan’s Paktia province, officials said.
“A suicide bomber blew up an explosives-laden vehicle at the gate of Chamkani district headquarters and then a group of militants, probably suicide attackers, tried to enter,” said deputy provincial governor Abdul Rahman Mangal on Thursday.
“The first attacker managed to explode an explosive-laden vehicle. Three other would-be suicide bombers were killed by police before they managed to detonate their bombs.”
– Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a text message sent to journalists shortly after the initial explosion.
Master Sergeant Nick Conner, a spokesman for International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in eastern Afghanistan, confirmed the attack and said that coalition forces responded to Taliban fighters on the ground alongside Afghan forces.
“Three coalition forces wounded along with two Afghan uniformed police,” he said. “Our initial reports were that they were wounded during the initial attack.”
Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from Kabul, said that there were four suicide bombers in total. All were killed in the attack.
“The first attacker managed to explode an explosive-laden vehicle. Three other would-be suicide bombers were killed by police before they managed to detonate their bombs,” Smith said.
Rohullah Samoon, provincial spokesman of Paktia, said that Thursday’s attack targeted a meeting between the district governor and local elders discussing a loya jirga, or traditional meeting, to be held in Kabul on November 16.
“There was a meeting between the district chief and a group of elders selected to participate in the loya jirga going on in the governor’s office at the time of the attack,” said Samoon.
The loya jirga, called by President Hamid Karzai, will discuss a strategy for trying to make peace with the Taliban and Afghanistan’s long-term relationship with the United States.
However, the Taliban is opposed to the meeting.
“The Taliban has said that anybody who attends the jirga here in Kabul is a legitimate target and can legitimately be killed,” explained our correspondent.
The Taliban were ousted from power in 2001 by a US-led invasion in the wake of the September 11 attacks in the United States.
There are around 140,000 international troops in Afghanistan helping pro-government forces fight the Taliban.
All foreign combat troops are due to leave by the end of 2014, but a sizeable troop mission to train and mentor Afghan forces is set to remain beyond that date.