Canadian soldiers sit on an armoured vehicle near the site of the suicide attack in Kandahar. (AP)
Kandahar, April 1 (AP): Three Taliban suicide bombers disguised in army uniforms stormed a government office in southern Afghanistan today after a fourth detonated a car bomb, officials said. At least 17 people — including the four assailants — died.
The Taliban claimed responsibility.
The coordinated assault in Kandahar underscored a new tactic by Afghan militants to launch multidirectional attacks against government offices. It mirrored a February attack in Kabul, where militants assaulted three government buildings simultaneously, killing 20.
Todays attack on Kandahars provincial council office killed seven civilians and six police officers, President Hamid Karzais office said. Ahmad Wali Karzai, the head of the council and President Karzais brother, said the attack came during a meeting of tribal leaders.
Among those killed were the provinces education director and its deputy health director, Ahmad said. The Presidents brother also said he left the council office about five minutes before the attack and was not harmed.
The assault comes amid a burst of violence in Afghanistan, where some 60 militants have died in battles the last three days.
The attack began just before noon, when a suicide bomber in a vehicle full of explosives blew himself up at the gates of the council office, opening the way for three other attackers in Afghan army uniforms to storm the building, Ahmad said.
Ahmad said he was the target of the attack; he did not say how he knew he was the target.
After the car bomb explosion, three militants wearing suicide vests and carrying AK-47 assault rifles entered the compound, said Zemeri Bashary, the interior ministrys spokesperson. The police killed two of the attackers and the third one blew himself up, Bashary said. A fourth bomber died in the car bomb.
Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesperson, claimed responsibility for the assault and said the target was the provincial compound.
Ahmad said the Taliban was increasingly targeting tribal leaders in their attacks, a tactic militants were also using in Pakistan, he said.
Now in Kandahar they are using the same tactics, he said. Theyve attacked provisional leaders. They are attacking the people who want democracy.
The Kandahar attack came as the interior ministry announced the police and coalition forces had killed 31 militants in a Taliban-controlled region in a neighbouring province, the second largest battle in the Afghan south in two days.