- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 6, 2010

KABUL | Taliban suicide bombers disguised as police attacked a government compound Wednesday in southwestern Afghanistan in an assault that left 13 people dead, including a provincial council member and all nine attackers, authorities said.

Eight of the bombers blew themselves up and police shot the ninth, President Hamid Karzai’s office said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which came as the provincial council was meeting in Zaranj, the capital of Nimroz province. The militant group said the council was trying to turn Afghans against the militants.

Insurgents have carried out coordinated suicide attacks on government and aid installations in the past to strike a blow against NATO and Afghan attempts to counter the insurgency. This summer, a U.S.-led military operation will try to clear the southern city of Kandahar of Taliban fighters in what will be a critical test of the war.

Many insurgents fled to Nimroz province, which is farther west and along the border with Iran, earlier this year when troops conducted an offensive to rout the Taliban from neighboring Helmand province. Nimroz is also a major trafficking route for Afghanistan’s huge opium trade.

In Wednesday’s hourlong attack, nine suicide bombers wearing Afghan National Police uniforms tried to infiltrate the provincial governor’s compound where the Nimroz council was meeting, said provincial police chief Gen. Abdul Jabar Pardeli. Police became suspicious and fired on them, Gen. Pardeli said.

The suicide bombers then began to blow themselves up or fire back, prompting blasts and gunbattles.

A female provincial council member was among the dead, according to Gov. Gulam Dastagar Azad.

Two police officers and a civilian also died, and 10 police were wounded, authorities said.

Sadeq Chakhansori, a member of the Afghan parliament who was in Nimroz for a meeting, identified the dead council member as Gul Maki Wakhali.

Police also found a car packed with explosives near the compound, which houses a court, the governor’s offices and a guesthouse, Mr. Azad said. The Interior Ministry said the car bomb was defused before it could explode.

The Taliban carried out the attack because the council was trying to persuade Afghans to turn against the insurgents, said Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi.

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