Taliban fighters stormed a police headquarters in Afghanistan’s northern Baghlan province on Sunday killing at least 13 police with more than 50 people wounded, including 20 civilians, the interior ministry said.
The assault began when a Taliban fighter driving a Humvee packed with explosives blew himself up at the entrance of the police compound in Pul-e-Khumri, the capital of Baghlan province, Afghan officials said.
Keep readinglist of 4 items
Eight gunmen rushed in after the explosion, setting off a gun battle that lasted more than six hours.
“Thirteen policemen were killed and 35 others injured,” said Nasrat Rahimi, a spokesman at the Interior Ministry, adding that 20 civilians were also wounded.
“The complex attack on Baghlan police headquarters has ended with the death of all nine attackers, including the suicide bomber,” he said.
Assadullah Shahbaz, a member of the Baghlan provincial council, said that local officials had sought immediate support from neighbouring provinces as the Taliban attack unfolded.
The group often uses military vehicles captured from Afghan forces as car bombs.
The Taliban has stepped up attacks on security installations to demoralise Afghan police and troops, even as it holds direct negotiations with officials from the United States to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan.
On Friday, US envoy for peace Zalmay Khalilzad, who is leading a sixth round of talks in Doha, said on Twitter that he told the Taliban “that the Afghan people, who are their brothers and sisters, want this war to end”.
“It is time to put down arms, stop the violence and embrace peace,” Khalilzad posted.
The Taliban responded by saying Khalilzad “should forget about the idea of us putting down our arms”.
“Instead of such fantasies, he should drive the idea home [to the US] about ending the use of force and incurring further human and financial losses for the decaying Kabul administration,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted.
Also on Friday, an Afghan grand assembly, widely known as a loya jirga, ended with delegates demanding an “immediate and permanent” ceasefire and a promise from President Ashraf Ghani to free 175 Taliban prisoners before Ramadan, the Islamic holy month that starts on Monday.
The Taliban, seeking to restore strict Islamic rule, refuses to talk to the Afghan government which it dismisses as a “US puppet”.
The group also rejected an invitation to the loya jirga, attended by 3,200 religious leaders, politicians and representatives from across the country, meeting under a giant white tent in Kabul.
Intense fighting continues across Afghanistan with the Taliban controlling or influencing more territory than ever, since its ouster by US-led troops following the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The US has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of a NATO-led mission, known as Resolute Support, that trains and assists Afghan security forces in their battle against the Taliban and other groups.