KABUL (Afghanistan) • Taleban militants struck government targets in many provinces of Afghanistan yesterday, killing at least 69 people, including a senior police commander, and wounding scores of others.
The deadlier attack hit a police training centre attached to the police headquarters in Gardez, the capital city of Paktia province.
Two Taleban suicide car bombers paved the way for a number of gunmen to attack the compound, officials and militants said. At least 21 police officers were killed, including the Paktia provincial police chief, with 48 others wounded, according to government officials.
The attack also left at least 20 civilians dead and 110 wounded, the Interior Ministry said.
Dozens of dead and wounded were taken to the city hospital, even as many more lay where they fell during the fighting, deputy public health director Hedayatullah Hameedi said.
"The hospital is overwhelmed and we call on people to donate blood," said Gardez deputy health director Shir Mohammad Karimi, who put the number of wounded there at more than 200.
CIVILIANS BEAR BRUNT OF ATTACK
Most of the victims are civilians who had come to the police headquarters to get their passports and national IDs.
A STATEMENT FROM THE PAKTIA GOVERNOR'S OFFICE
Doctors and nurses rushed to attend to the wounded women, children and police filling the corridors, where some bodies also lay. Outside, university students formed a queue to donate blood, an Agence France-Presse (AFP) photographer said.
The Taleban, seeking to reimpose strict Islamic law after its 2001 ouster by United States-led forces, claimed responsibility in a tweet.
A statement from the Paktia governor's office said: "Most of the victims are civilians who had come to the police headquarters to get their passports and national IDs."
A university student who was in class at the time said he heard "a big boom" that shook the building and shattered windows.
"As we were trying to find our way (out of the building), I heard a second blast and then the dust and dirt covered us in the class. Several of my classmates were wounded by broken glass," Mr Noor Ahmad told AFP.
The battle between the attackers, armed with guns and suicide vests, and security forces lasted around five hours before it ended with all five militants killed, officials said.
The militant group also attacked a district centre in neighbouring Ghazni province yesterday, detonating an armoured Humvee vehicle packed with explosives near the provincial governor's office.
Provincial officials said at least 15 government security forces were killed and 12 wounded in the Ghazni attacks, with 13 civilians killed and seven wounded.
The Taleban said it had killed 31 security forces and wounded 21 in those clashes.
Fighting was also reported near local government centres in Farah and Kandahar provinces.
Yesterday's attack in Gardez began hours after a US drone strike in Pakistan's Kurram tribal district, part of which borders Paktia, killed at least 26 Haqqani militants who are affiliated with the Taleban, officials said.
A senior commander in the Afghan Taleban told AFP the attack was in retaliation for the US aerial assault.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE