13 killed in Taliban attack

KABUL: Five Taliban suicide bombers attacked government centers in an eastern Afghan city Tuesday in a complex attack that has become a signature of major Taliban assaults. Five bombers and five Afghan security forces died, officials said.

Three people died in a similar attack on a second Afghan city in the east.

Using suicide bombings, gunfire and rockets, the militants attacked the provincial governor's compound, the intelligence department and the police department in the eastern city of Gardez just before 11 a.m. (0630GMT; 2:30 a.m. EDT).

A suicide bombing in front of the city's police station killed two police, while a militant fired a rocket at the city's intelligence department and killed three officers, said Ghulam Dastagir, deputy provincial police chief of Paktia province. A rocket was also fired at the governor's house, he said.

A second suicide bomber at the police station was shot and killed, as were three suicide bombers who tried to attack the governor's house, Mangal said. At least two bombers were clothed in women's burqas when they were shot and killed, said Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary.

Militants tried to carry out attacks in a second eastern city — Jalalabad — at around the same time. Mohammad Ayub Salangi, the provincial police chief, said two suicide bombers on a motorbike and a police officer were killed after a gun battle broke out.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, claimed that 15 militants — all in suicide vests — attacked government centers in Gardez. He said they were carrying AK-47 assault rifles and rockets.

U.S. forces responded to the attacks but it wasn't immediately clear if they were involved in any fighting, said spokeswoman Capt. Elizabeth Mathias.

Taliban militants over the last year have launched several complex attacks, which usually involve multiple suicide bombers and additional gunmen. They have been launched in Kabul, the capital, and Kandahar, the Taliban's spiritual birthplace. Analysts say al-Qaida fighters provide the training that help militants here to carry out such attacks.

The most recent complex attack took place in May in the eastern city of Khost, when 11 Taliban suicide bombers struck government buildings, sparking gunbattles with U.S. and Afghan forces. Twenty people died in the attacks and three American troops were wounded.

Khost, which is 40 miles (70 kilometers) east of Gardez, is a key area of operation for militants associated with the insurgent network run by Sirajuddin Haqqani.

Taliban militants have stepped up attacks the last three years and now control wide swaths of countryside in the country's south and east. A record 68,000 U.S. troops will be in the country by fall as the Pentagon increases its focus on Afghanistan while drawing forces out of Iraq.