Taliban launches key attacks on Kandahar
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) – The Taliban unleashed a wave of attacks including six suicide bombings on government targets in the major southern Afghan city of Kandahar Saturday, leaving at least 14 people wounded.
Militants with guns and rocket-propelled grenades launched an assault on the governor’s office, and ten explosions including six suicide blasts rocked the city — the birthplace of the Taliban — after the attacks began at about 1:00 pm (0930 GMT).
Gunmen occupied a hotel near the local office of Afghanistan’s intelligence service, while suicide bombers tried to attack two police offices in the south’s de facto capital but were shot before they could reach their targets.
In chaotic scenes, an AFP reporter said gunfire was still ringing out as ambulances evacuated the wounded, who included three policemen, from the area.
“Small-arms fire is still going on. Two RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) have been fired onto the (governor’s) building so far,” provincial spokesman Zalmay Ayubi told AFP.
“The northern and eastern sides of the compound are under direct attack,” he said, also giving details of the other attacks.
It is believed that Kandahar governor Tooryalai Wesa was holed up in his compound.
A spokesman for Kandahar’s main hospital, Doctor Hashem, said that 14 people had been brought in with injuries, including three police.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks, with spokesman Yusuf Ahmadi claiming that “heavy casualties have been inflicted on the enemy”.
The militia had warned on Friday that this week’s killing of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by US forces in Pakistan would give “a new impetus” to their fight against foreign and Afghan forces.
They had already announced the start of their annual spring offensive last week.
But Ahmadi did not mention bin Laden’s death in the context of the Kandahar attacks in his comments to AFP.
The assault against the heavily guarded governor’s compound was launched from two nearby buildings including a shopping mall which the attackers had ordered shopkeepers to leave shortly before the violence began.
There are around 130,000 international troops in Afghanistan, two-thirds of them from the United States, battling the Taliban and other insurgents.
Limited withdrawals from seven relatively peaceful areas, only one of which is in southern Afghanistan, are due to start in July ahead of the planned end of foreign combat operations in 2014.
International forces claim that Kandahar and the surrounding area are now safer following months of intense fighting to clear traditional Taliban strongholds.
But government officials and other targets are still frequently targeted by militants in the city.
Nearly 500 Taliban prisoners escaped from Kandahar’s prison last month through a huge tunnel in a major embarrassment for the authorities.
Also in April, Kandahar’s police chief was killed by an attacker in a police uniform, while six Afghan security force personnel were killed by a Taliban bomb hidden in an ambulance at a police centre the same month.
In February, 19 people including 15 police and an intelligence agent died in a series of assaults by the Taliban focused on the city’s police headquarters, while in January Wesa’s deputy was killed.