KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – The Taliban stormed a government compound in central Afghanistan early on Thursday, triggering an hours-long gunbattle that killed 15, including three top local officials, before they drove Afghan forces out.
The blistering attack in the Khuja Omari district was the latest insurgent assault in Ghazni province, which is now largely under Taliban control. The Taliban planted mines to prevent government reinforcements from coming to help and quickly took responsibility for the attack.
The insurgent group’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, told The Associated Press over the telephone that after the attack in Khuja Omari – not far from the provincial capital also called Ghazni – all security posts in the district were under Taliban control. The district center, however, is still in government hands.
The province of Ghazni is located south of Kabul province, the seat of the country’s capital, Kabul, and lies along a key route. Travel by road between the capital and southern Kandahar province, a traditional Taliban heartland, is considered dangerous because of large swaths that are now under insurgent control.
Mujahid gave a higher casualty figure among the Afghan forces, which the Taliban often do, exaggerating their achievements on the battlefield, and a significantly lower death toll among the insurgent attackers.
A lawmaker in the Afghan Parliament, Mohammad Arif Rahmani, said the district governor, intelligence service director and a deputy police official were among those killed in Thursday’s attack.
He said the attack began around 2 a.m. with the Taliban storming the highly secure compound in Khuja Omari district.
Ramazan Ali Moseni, a deputy chief police in Ghazni province, said seven police officers and five were members of the country’s intelligence agency known by the acronym NDS were also killed in the attack. Moseni also said 45 Taliban were killed and eight members of the Afghan security forces were wounded.
The casualty figures are impossible to independently verify because of the remoteness of the area.