KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A team of six suicide bombers launched a coordinated assault on a provincial governor's compound in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, killing 19 people in the latest high-profile attack to target prominent Afghan government officials, authorities said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in the Parwan provincial capital of Charikar, some 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Kabul. Bagram Air Base, NATO's headquarters for Regional Command East, is located about 7 miles away.
Afghan police said the assault began with a car bomb outside the front gate. The blast blew open a hole in the wall, allowing five insurgents wearing suicide vests and carrying automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenades to rush into the compound.
Afghan police said they killed three of the attackers as they approached the governor's house.
The attack appeared to target a meeting of top provincial security officials that was taking place in the compound. Afghan National Police Gen. Abdul Jalil Rahimi said he was at the meeting, along with Parwan Gov. Abdul Basir Salangi, top provincial Afghan army and police officials, and at least two NATO police advisers.
"Two of the bombers were able to get into the building of the governor's house," Rahimi said.
Parwan Gov. Abdul Basir Salangi, a former rebel commander during the Russian occupation, also fired at the insurgents with his own machine gun. He said it was the second time in the past month he was targeted by an assassination attempt.
Provincial Police Chief Gen. Sher Ahmad Maladani also took part in the gun battle, which he said lasted for approximately one hour.
"The last attacker was killed by police when he was only about 15 meters away from me," said Maladani. The bomber was killed before he could detonate his explosives.
The attack left much of the compound in ruins. Part of the governor's offices were burned. Broken glass and body parts littered the courtyard. Several cars were wrecked by explosions and bullets.
Fourteen of the dead were civilian Afghan government employees and five were policemen, according to the Afghan Interior Ministry.
And the international coalition announced that an insurgent attack killed a NATO service member in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday. The death brings to 382 the number killed in 2011 and 59 in August.