JALALABAD, Afghanistan: At least six Taliban suicide attackers stormed a police station in the centre of the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad on Thursday, killing three people in a major assault ahead of the presidential election.
The target of the complex assault was a police station close to the governor’s house in Jalalabad city, which has been the scene of repeated militant attacks in recent years.
The Taliban have vowed a campaign of violence to disrupt the vote on April 5, and a spokesperson for the insurgents claimed responsibility for the early-morning suicide strike.
“First they detonated a mini-truck… and the fighting is ongoing,” Zabiullah Mujahid told AFP via text message.
Sediq Sediqqi, spokesperson for the Interior Ministry, said that five militants had been killed and one or two attackers remained holed up inside the police station.
“Two police have been killed, and one civilian,” he told AFP. “About 14 police were also wounded.”
“The remaining terrorists are hiding in a tiny room, so the police are being careful now and going slowly after them so that there are no more big losses.”
Homayoun Zaheer, chief doctor at Jalalabad hospital, said that a total of 20 people had been treated for injuries.
The area of the attack includes the compound of the governor of Nangarhar province, of which Jalalabad is the capital, several other government buildings and the state-run television station.
Debris from the bombing littered the surrounding streets as security forces cordoned off the scene.
Ten days ago, Taliban insurgent leaders vowed to target the presidential election, urging their fighters to attack polling staff, voters and security forces before the vote to choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai.
Previous Afghan elections have been badly marred by violence, with at least 31 civilians and 26 soldiers and police killed on polling day alone in 2009, as the Islamist militants displayed their opposition to the US-backed polls.
On Tuesday a suicide bomber killed at least 16 people at a crowded market in the northern province of Faryab province. There was no claim of responsibility for that attack.
Another blood-stained election would damage claims by international donors that the expensive military and civilian intervention in Afghanistan since 2001 has made progress in establishing a functioning state system.
NATO combat troops are withdrawing from the country after 13 years of fighting a fierce Islamist insurgency, which erupted when the Taliban were ousted from power after the 9/11 attacks on the United States.