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Suicide bombers and gunmen attack east Afghan city
Sat Jul 25, 2009 10:22am EDT
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By Elyas Wahdat
KHOST, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Up to seven suicide bombers attacked government buildings in the east Afghanistan city of Khost on Saturday, security officials said, but there appeared to be relatively few casualties.
The U.S. military said it had heard reports of suicide bombers in Khost but Afghan security had brought the attack under control. Afghan and U.S. forces are battling a growing Taliban-led insurgency in the east.
Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi said a car packed with explosives had been detonated in Khost, near the Pakistan border, followed by three suicide bombers. Lengthy gunbattles then erupted.
Khost provincial police chief Abdul Qayum Baqizoy said suicide bombers had attacked two government buildings, wounding three civilians and a police officer.
Salahuddin Ayubi, a spokesman for the al Qaeda and Taliban-linked Haqqani network, said a suicide car bomber had attacked a district government building in the city, blowing open the gates to allow gunmen and bombers to enter.
He said they had inflicted "heavy casualties."
A Reuters reporter in the city heard at least two blasts.
The Haqqani network has mounted similar attacks against Afghan government and U.S. military targets in the past.
Four Taliban suicide bombers attacked Khost in May, killing at least six people, and gunmen laid siege to government buildings before they were overpowered.
Saturday's attacks followed a similarly brazen pattern to assaults by Taliban gunmen and suicide bombers, some dressed as women, on the eastern city of Gardez in neighboring Paktia province on Tuesday. Nine people were killed there.
Violence this year has reached its worst levels since the Taliban were ousted by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in 2001.
Attacks across the country have escalated since thousands of U.S. Marines and British troops launched major new offensives in the southern province of Helmand this month.
The offensives are the first under U.S. President Barack Obama's new regional strategy to defeat the Taliban and its militant Islamist allies and stabilize Afghanistan.
But July has since become the deadliest month of the 8-year war for U.S., British and other foreign forces in Afghanistan. Continued...
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