Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wire Update: 20 Killed as Troops in Afghanistan Battle Suicide Bombers

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:
NOTE: This is an update of an earlier story.
WASHINGTON, May 12, 2009 -- Newswires reported this afternoon that 11 Taliban suicide bombers attacked government buildings in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, sparking running gunbattles that killed at least 20 people and wounded three U.S. troops, officials said. U.S. and Afghan troops freed 20 hostages taken by the insurgents.

The Associated Press reported that the assault began around 10 a.m. when a suicide bomber in a burqa attacked the governor's compound in Khost, an eastern city on the border with Pakistan that houses a major American base. That blast was followed soon after by a suicide car bomb explosion, said Wazir Pacha, the spokesman for the provincial police chief.

U.S. forces attending a nearby meeting responded to the attacks and killed an unknown number of militants, said Lt. Cmdr. Christine Sidenstricker, a U.S. military spokeswoman.

AP noted the following details:
The Khost attack came as President Obama sought to put his stamp on the war, appointing a former three-star general as the country's ambassador and replacing the top American military commander in Afghanistan. Karl Eikenberry presented his credentials to President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday.

The attack began with several suicide attacks on the Khost governor's compound, which drew small arms fire from nearby U.S. troops, said U.S. military spokesman Chief Brian Naranjo.

Then a team of six suicide bombers tried to attack the nearby police headquarters, but were rebuffed by security forces and entered the neighboring municipality building, Pacha said.

Three bombers detonated their explosives, the Interior Ministry said, while other militants took 20 city employees hostage, Pacha said.

A second U.S. team was sent from the nearby American base, Camp Salerno. But those troops were fired on en route, Naranjo said. A U.S. soldier and an Afghan policeman were wounded and taken to Camp Salerno for treatment where they were in stable condition, he said. A number of militants were killed, he said.

After the militants entered the municipal building, a number of explosions reverberated from within, as U.S. and Afghan forces surrounded the area, an Associated Press stringer said from within the police chief's compound.

U.S. and Afghan forces later stormed the building, freed 20 hostages and killed three insurgents, Pacha said.
AP also reported that militants in recent months have carried out an increasing number of multi-pronged attacks that involved several attackers and multiple suicide bombers. Military analysts have said the increasing sophistication of attacks in Afghanistan is a result of training by Pakistani militants and al-Qaida fighters.

(Report from newswire sources.)

Source: 20 dead as US, Afghans battle suicide bombers

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