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Four die in Taliban attack near Afghan NATO base

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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Four security guards died Monday as suicide bombers targeted a fuel depot for NATO-led forces close to one of Afghanistan’s biggest bases, where thousands of foreign troops are stationed.

The attack happened at a facility belonging to logistics company Supreme, near the sprawling Kandahar airfield, which acts as a hub for troop operations across south Afghanistan, the Taliban’s heartland and focus of the war.

The police commander for southern Afghanistan, General Salem Ihsas, said four Afghan guards working for a private security firm were killed in the assault, which happened at around 9:00 pm (1630 GMT).

He said eight other guards — three from Nepal and five from Afghanistan — were also wounded.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi said the militant group was behind the attack in a telephone call from an undisclosed location.

The insurgents frequently target organisations, both foreign and Afghan, which work with the 140,000-strong foreign military in Afghanistan as well as fuel convoys and tankers supplying the international force.

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The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) relies on contractors to provide a wide range of services in Afghanistan, particularly at large hub bases such as Kandahar airfield.

Ihsas said three suicide bombers were behind the attack, with two blowing themselves up at the compound gates and a third shot dead by security forces in a gun battle.

The fighting is now over and “we are in control,” Ihsas said, adding the suicide bombers had not managed to get inside the compound.

The attack was also confirmed by the provincial governor’s spokesman and the local Afghan army commander.

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The website of the company targeted, Supreme, says it provides services to foreign military including fuel, catering, cargo transportation and logistics.

It adds that it has over 50 years’ experience working in “demanding environments.”

The company, which is headquartered in Amsterdam, was not immediately reachable for comment, while an ISAF spokesman in Kabul said he did not have any more information.

Kandahar airfield is located just outside Kandahar city, the birthplace of the Taliban and the biggest city in southern Afghanistan, which is frequently hit by violent disturbances.

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Kandahar has seen several high-profile attacks in recent weeks, including the killing of the city’s mayor and President Hamid Karzai’s powerful brother.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan Monday, a policeman and four Taliban insurgents were killed when militants attacked district government offices in Ghazni province, central Afghanistan.

The attack in the Qarabagh district lasted about an hour and started when the Taliban launched two rockets at the district’s administrative headquarters before opening fire on a police checkpoint nearby.

Police shot back, triggering a gun fight, but insurgents did not get inside the compound, Ghazni police chief Dilawar Zahid said.

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On Sunday, 22 people were killed when the Taliban stormed the compound of the governor of Parwan province, just north of Kabul.

International combat troops are scheduled to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and hand over control to Afghan security forces.

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