KABUL, Afghanistan — At least four gunmen equipped with arms and explosive vests stormed a government building in the eastern province of Khost on Sunday morning, triggering several hours of clashes with security forces, local officials said.
According to Gen. Abdul Hakim Ishaqzai, the provincial police chief, the attackers stormed Khost's traffic department.
"Two of the suicide bombers were able to detonate their explosives and two other were shot dead during the fight," he said, adding that three police soldiers were killed and five others were injured.
Taliban insurgents claimed the responsibility for the Sunday morning raid, which lasted several hours.
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"Today around 2:30 our fighters equipped with arms, grenades and suicide vests stormed a military training and traffic department in Khost province," Zabiullah Mujahid, the militants' spokesman, said in a statement posted on their website.
According to Mujahid, fighting still continues and heavy explosions have been heard but he gave no further details about the casualties.
The provincial official only confirmed the insurgents' raid on the traffic department.
Sunday's incident comes only a day after a suspected Taliban sympathizer detonated his explosive vest inside a tent in the main military hospital, killing six medical doctors and injuring 23 others while they were having lunch.
Khost is a volatile province in eastern Afghanistan, which borders with the tribal area of Waziristan, which is known as a Taliban stronghold and a base for the Haqqani network.
Afghan president Hamid Karzai condemned the attack in a statement.
"Those who organized the attack are ignorant people who don't know a shred of religion and humanity," Karzai said.
"They destroy their own country by getting instructions from others living in other country and their only purpose is the destruction of Afghanistan and killing of innocent people."
The identity of the attackers is not known yet, as their faces are burned due to fire in the building, but the Haqqani group is very active in this area, Ishaqzai said.
Jalaluddin Haqqani, a former anti-Soviet commander who resisted the Russians in the 1980s, now has fighters loyal to him waging terrorist attacks, including coordinated suicide attacks against Afghan and U.S.-led NATO forces. The Haqqani network has close links with al Qaida organizations.
Violence has increased across the country since the Taliban spring offensive, called Badr, was launched in the beginning of this month.
According to the police chief, Sunday's fighting started around 4 a.m. and ended nine hours later.
In a separate incident Sunday, a roadside mine hit a civilian vehicle in Zabul province killing two women and injured five others, according to a statement issued from the Afghan interior ministry.
Among the injured are four women whom Afghan police took to a nearby hospital, the statement said.
(Shukoor is a McClatchy special correspondent.)
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