Militants launch ongoing attack on Afghanistan government building, say officials

By: | Updated: July 11, 2018 12:26 PM

Militants raided a government building in eastern Afghanistan today, officials said, setting off explosions in an ongoing attack.

Security forces were battling to clear the militants from the compound. (AP)

Militants raided a government building in eastern Afghanistan today, officials said, setting off explosions in an ongoing attack. At least five people have been wounded in the attack in Jalalabad, Nangarhar provincial governor spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told AFP, in the second assault in the city in as many days.

Security forces were battling to clear the militants from the compound, Khogyani said, but it was not clear how many gunmen were inside. “I can confirm an armed attack on a branch of the education department,” Khogyani said. “Two big explosions have been reported from the site so far.” Jalalabad health director Najibullah Kamawal confirmed five wounded had been brought to the hospital so far.

A suicide attack in the same city yesterday killed at least 12 people and ignited a nearby petrol station, with witnesses describing screaming victims “swallowed” by flames. The bomber was targeting Afghan security forces when he blew himself up. Ten civilians were among the dead.

The Islamic State group claimed that attack via its Amaq propaganda agency — the latest carried out by the extremists in restive Nangarhar province, which borders Pakistan. IS has claimed a series of high-casualty suicide bomb attacks in the province in recent weeks, as US and Afghan forces continue offensive operations against the group.

While the Taliban is Afghanistan’s largest militant group, IS has a relatively small but potent presence, mainly in the north and east of the country. Today’s attack comes a day after President Ashraf Ghani flew to Brussels to attend a NATO summit where he will be hoping to get a greater commitment from members to the nearly 17-year conflict.

It also coincides with the start of a university entrance exam for more than 16,000 students in the city, but it was not clear if the two events were linked. The attack comes exactly a month after militants raided the education department in Jalalabad.

In that incident a suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance to the department, triggering a fierce battle between gunmen and security forces. At least 10 people were wounded after terrified employees jumped out of the windows.

A recent ceasefire between Afghan security forces and the Taliban during the Islamic holiday Eid had raised hopes that an end to hostilities in the war-weary country was possible. Since then, however, the Taliban has returned to the battlefield and IS, which was not involved in the truce, has continued to carry out deadly attacks.

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