Bombers among 23 rebels killed in Kandahar
KABUL(PAN): Afghan security forces backed by foreign troops clashed with insurgents for a second day in southern Kandahar province on Sunday, killing as many as 23 attackers, the interior ministry said.
Insurgents, including those who escaped from a jail in April, launched a series of bomb blasts and gun attacks on government offices in Kandahar city on Saturday. Clashes between the assailants and security forces continued until Sunday morning, the interior ministry spokesman, Zamarai Bashari, told a press conference in Kabul.
Militants holed up in a hotel fired at security forces, he said. However, he did not know how many insurgents were holed up in the building.
Eight militants carried out suicide blasts and another 15 were killed by security forces, he said, adding two policemen were also killed. The injured included 15 civilians, 12 policemen and 11 intelligence operatives.
On April 25, hundreds of prisoners, most of them militants, fled a jail in Kandahar City through a 360-metre-long tunnel dug by the fighters.
A doctor at the Mirwais Hospital, who did not want to be named, said they had received two dead bodies and 46 wounded people, including three women, at the hospital. The women later succumbed to their injuries, he added.
The interior ministry spokesman said that clashes between police and insurgents lasted long to avoid civilian casualties.
Insurgents on Saturday afternoon launched a wave of attacks, including bomb blasts, targeting the governor's compound, intelligence department, and the first police district and public services police department.
However, a spokesman for the Taliban, Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, said Saturday's attacks were part of their spring offensive codenamed 'Badar'. As many as 116 security forces were killed and their 19 vehicles destroyed, he claimed.
The Taliban claimed more than 100 fighters took part in the offensive and their goal was to take control of Kandahar city.
NATO troops and helicopters were seen supporting Afghan forces in the clash.
Fighting had stopped overnight after Afghan forces secured the government buildings that had been attacked, Bashary said, although sporadic gunshots and explosions could be heard around the city.
So far, he said a total of 23 attackers had been killed as well as two members of the security forces. Another 40 people were wounded. Of the dead attackers, eight detonated their suicide vests. Security forces captured four of the attackers, Bashary added.
Government officials said they had no accurate estimate of how many attackers were involved, but NATO estimated 40 to 60 militants took part.
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