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    Pajhwok reporter among 19 dead in Uruzgan battle

    TIRINKOT (PAN): At least 19 people, including Pajhwok Afghan News reporter Ahmad Omaid Khpalwak, were killed in several hours of fighting in central Uruzgan province on Thursday, officials said.

    The fighting erupted soon after six suicide bombers, armed with guns, stormed the Governor's House and other buildings in Tirinkot, the provincial capital, at about 12.30pm.

    Another 37 people, including women and children, were wounded in the gunbattle, Gen. Salem Ehsas, commander of the 404th Maiwand Police Zone, told Pajhwok Afghan News. Khpalwak and two policemen were among the dead.

    Khpalwak's body was brought to the Uruzgan Civil Hospital from the scene of fighting, Public Health Director Khan Agha Miakhel said. Four of the critically wounded people were referred to a medical facility of foreign forces.

    The journalist was in the Radio and Television Department at the time of the Taliban assault, the deadliest in recent weeks. Moments after the fighting began, the reporter sent his brother Javed an SMS, asking family members to pray for his safety.

    Soon afterwards, hospital authorities informed Javed of his brother's death. Javed spoke to Pajhwok at 3.15pm, saying that he had arranged an ambulance to shift home the corpse of his brother, who also worked for the BBC.

    Pajhwok's reporter Abdul Samad Rohani was shot dead by unidentified gunmen near Lashkargah, Helmand, in June 2008 and its Peshawar-based correspondent Janullah Hashimzada in Pakistan's lawless tribal region of Khyber in August 2009.

    Gen. Ihsas said the Governor's House, Radio and Television Department, police headquarters and the highway battalion had come under attack.

    Security forces were engaged in a fierce exchange of fire with the bombers, Ali Ahmad Khushal, the Uruzgan Radio and Television chief, said earlier in the day.

    Ahmad Jawad, a local journalist, said several explosions were heard in the city. The attackers, wearing explosives-packed vests, were firing at other government offices, he added.

    Jawad said two suicide bombers also found their way into the Governor’s House after an explosion. ISAF helicopters are hovering over the area and firing at the attackers.  

    As usual, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Their spokesman Qari Yousaf Ahmadi said six suicide bombers had entered the Governor's House and other buildings in Tirinkot.

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