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Taliban target base U.S. uses in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban fighters wearing suicide vests and armed with assault rifles attacked a U.S.-run civilian and military base on Thursday in the southern city of Kandahar, killing one Afghan and wounding two others, officials said.

Gen. Abdul Razzaq , the police chief in Kandahar province, the heartland of the Taliban, said that at least two insurgents carried out the attack on a base housing a U.S. provincial reconstruction team made up of civilians, diplomats and military personnel overseeing aid projects. The base is guarded by NATO soldiers.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul said in a statement that there were no U.S. or NATO casualties. The Kandahar provincial governor's office said that a civilian, an Afghan policeman and an Afghan soldier were wounded, and a hospital official said later that one died of his injuries.

The attack began about 2:45 p.m., when the insurgents occupied an office in a nearby building and started shooting at the base with rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire, the U.S. Embassy said. Afghan security forces immediately responded by cordoning off the area and exchanging fire with the insurgents, officials said.

Sidiq Sidiqi, a spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry, said that both attackers were killed.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack through their spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid.

NATO officials say that the surge of 30,000 U.S. troops into Afghanistan last year has significantly weakened the insurgency in rural areas, particularly the south. But recently the Taliban have stepped up suicide attacks and complicated bombings in major cities, causing a spike in civilian casualties.

Last month, the United Nations reported that violence against civilians was at its worst since the Afghan war began a decade ago, despite the presence of more than 100,000 NATO and U.S. forces.

Still, Afghan and NATO officials plan to proceed with transferring control of security in parts of 17 provinces from international to Afghan forces in the second phase of a nationwide security transition. President Hamid Karzai is expected to announce the areas next week. Kandahar isn't among those slated for handover.

In a separate incident Thursday, a Taliban suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden car near a U.S. military base in Panjwai, southwest of Kandahar. No casualties were reported.

(Zohori is a McClatchy special correspondent.)


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