Nation/World

Taliban mount heavy attack

Insurgents repelled, but hit eight sites in Afghan city

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – The Taliban unleashed a major assault Saturday on government buildings throughout Afghanistan’s main southern city, an attack that cast doubt on how successful the U.S.-led coalition has been in its nearly yearlong military campaign to establish security and stability in the former Taliban stronghold.

The Taliban said their goal was to take control of Kandahar city, the birthplace of the Taliban and President Hamid Karzai’s home province, making it the most ambitious of a series of recent high-profile attacks on government installations. The attack came a day after the Islamic movement said Osama bin Laden’s death would only serve to boost morale, but a Taliban spokesman insisted it had been in the works for months before the al-Qaida leader was killed.

Shooting started shortly after midday and lasted more than seven hours, while government forces were backed by military helicopters firing from overhead.

At least eight locations were attacked: the governor’s compound, the mayor’s office, the intelligence agency headquarters, three police stations and two high schools, according to government officials.

The assailants included at least five suicide attackers in bomb-rigged cars, three of whom were stopped by police before their explosives could go off, NATO forces said in a statement. In the end, none of the assaulted compounds was breached by the militants.

About 40 to 60 insurgents were involved in the assault, according to U.S. Army Lt. Col. Webster Wright, a spokesman for NATO’s Regional Command Southeast.

The attackers at the governor’s compound were finally pushed back around nightfall and Gov. Tooryalai Wesa called reporters in for a press conference at his reclaimed office while fighting continued at the intelligence agency a little over a mile away.

At least one police officer and one civilian were killed and 20 other people wounded, Wesa told reporters.

He said six Taliban fighters also had been killed.

The Taliban said more than 100 militants flooded into the city – including many escaped convicts who had been freed in a bold Taliban prison break last month. They were told to target any building used by the government or security forces.

“We are taking control of the entire city. We are at every corner,” Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said.

The Taliban usually exaggerate the scale of their attacks. A NATO official said the insurgents did not control any part of the city during Saturday’s assaults.



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