KABUL, Afghanistan — Six Taliban insurgents equipped with suicide vests raided the governor's compound of Parwan province only miles from the largest U.S. base north of Kabul, killing at least 22 and injuring dozens of others in a gun battle that lasted less than an hour, the Afghan Interior Ministry said Sunday.
The apparent target of the attack was a security meeting chaired by the provincial governor, who gave a dramatic interview to Afghan television as the attack was taking place. "I'm inside," the governor, Abdul Basir Salangi, told Tolo News, As he spoke, gun battles raged in the compound and one of the attackers attempted to storm the governor's office. The attacker was shot dead, and Salangi was uninjured.
“The governor was the target," said Aziz Ahamad, an aide.
The attack began at around 11:30 a.m. in the provincial capital, Charikar, about 30 miles north of Kabul, when a car bomb, apparently driven by a suicide bomber, detonated outside the compound's entrance. Five attackers then stormed inside, the Interior Ministry statement said.
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Officials said 16 civilians and six police officers were killed. At least 34 others, including 10 police officers, were injured. Two of the attackers blew themselves up and three others were shot dead by the police, the statement added.
Parwan is considered one of Afghanistan's most secure provinces and is home to the largest U.S. military facility in Afghanistan. A major highway that is supply route for U.S.-led NATO forces passes through the province from the central Asian republics of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. It borders Panjsher province, where last month the U.S.-led coalition handed security responsibilities to Afghans as a part of security transition intended to allow U.S. forces to withdraw by the end of 2014.
The attack sent relatives of the dead and wounded flooding to the hospital in search for their relatives. “My cousin who was working as a manager in the governor compound has been killed in the attack, and I found his body in the hospital," Obaidullah Sediqi, a driver for the provincial council, told McClatchy by phone. 'There were several other bodies and I checked their faces till I found my cousin.'
Sediqi said he was still trying to determine the fate of his brother, who also was inside the compound.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on their website.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack. "The enemies of Afghanistan do not stop killing our people even in the holy month of Ramadan," his statement said.