- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2009

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan | Four Taliban suicide bombers disguised in army uniforms detonated a car bomb and stormed a government office Wednesday, killing 13 people.

The multipronged raid mirrored an attack in Kabul in February when militants assaulted three government buildings simultaneously, killing 20.

Wednesday’s attack on Kandahar’s provincial council office killed seven civilians and six police officers, President Hamid Karzai’s office said. Ahmad Wali Karzai, the head of the council and the president’s brother, said the attack came during a meeting of tribal leaders. He said 17 people were wounded.

The attack began just before noon, when a suicide bomber in a vehicle full of explosives blew himself up at the office gates, opening the way for three other attackers in Afghan army uniforms and armed with AK-47s to storm the building, Mr. Karzai said.

Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. general in the Middle East, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday that the Taliban and other insurgents are growing stronger and that the U.S. military will fight “relentlessly and aggressively” against extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Kandahar assault comes amid a burst of violence in Afghanistan, where some 60 militants have died in battles in the past three days. President Obama - who is deploying an additional 21,000 U.S. forces, including trainers, to bolster the 38,000 already in the country - has said the U.S. will increase its focus on the “increasingly perilous” situation here.

After the car-bomb explosion, three militants wearing suicide vests and carrying assault rifles entered the Kandahar compound, said Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary. Police killed two of the attackers and the third blew himself up, Mr. Bashary said. A fourth bomber died in the car bomb, bringing the overall death toll to at least 17.

Among those killed were the province’s education director and its deputy health director, Mr. Karzai said. The president’s brother, who believes he was the target of the attack, said he left the council office about five minutes before the raid and was not harmed.

Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the assault and said the target was the provincial compound.

The Kandahar attack came as the Interior Ministry announced that Afghan police and coalition forces killed 31 militants in a neighboring province, the second large battle in the south in two days.

The fight took place in three villages in the Kajaki region of Helmand on Tuesday. Kajaki is the site of a U.S.-funded dam that provides hydroelectric power to much of southern Afghanistan. The dam is protected by British troops in an area surrounded by hostile militants.

In Uruzgan province on Monday, Afghan and foreign troops killed 30 Taliban fighters, police said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide