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Six dead after gunmen storm Afghan government building

Four men armed with assault rifles and wearing explosives drove into a compound that houses the government department the edge of Khost city shortly before dawn, triggering an hours-long gunbattle and killing six people.

Afghan policemen, U.S. and Afghan soldiers on alert near the police traffic department building, which was under attack by insurgents in Khost, eastern of Afghanistan on Sunday, May 22, 2011.
Afghan policemen, U.S. and Afghan soldiers on alert near the police traffic department building, which was under attack by insurgents in Khost, eastern of Afghanistan on Sunday, May 22, 2011.
Image: AP Photo/Nishanuddin Khan

TALIBAN FIGHTERS wearing suicide bomb vests hidden under police uniforms attacked a government building Sunday in eastern Afghanistan, triggering an hours-long gunbattle and killing six people, officials said.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack in Khost province in a text message to The Associated Press. The attack came a day after a Taliban suicide bomber slipped inside the capital’s main military hospital and killed at least six Afghan medical students — worrying reminders of militants’ ability to infiltrate locations thought to be secure.

In Sunday’s attack, four men armed with assault rifles and wearing explosives drove shortly before dawn into a compound that houses the provincial traffic department on the edge of Khost city, provincial Police Chief General Abdul Hakim Ishaqzai said. Security forces stopped the men, who were wearing uniforms of the Afghan border police, only after becoming suspicious of the civilian station wagon they drove, he said.

Guards opened fire on the attackers, but the men were able to occupy the upper floor of the building, Ishaqzai said. The attackers shot at Afghan security forces from their vantage point as a fire raged through the structure. AP Television News video showed US soldiers surrounding an outer wall and shouting orders as Afghan troops rushed toward the building, which was engulfed by smoke.

Two of the attackers detonated their bomb vests during the fighting, with one bomber killing two Afghan soldiers, said General Raz Mohammad Oryakhail, the army commander for Khost province. Security forces shot the other two attackers to death.

Three police officers and a gardener working at the site were also killed in the attack, Ishaqzai said. Five police officers, one soldier and one civilian were wounded.

Soldiers defused more explosives found inside the attackers’ station wagon.

The police chief said the Taliban attackers could have been stopped before taking the building had a guard’s assault rifle not jammed. The US provided Afghan police with some of the Hungarian-made AMD-65 rifles, which have been criticized for their poor performance.

- AP

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