KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban staged a multi-pronged attack on a police station in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday in an hours-long assault that killed at least two policemen and a civilian, officials said.
The spectacular attack in Jalalabad, the capital of the eastern Nangarhar province, was the latest in the countdown to next month's presidential elections.
It began in the early hours Thursday, with insurgents sending a suicide bomber who detonated his explosives outside the police station, located near the palatial residence of the province's Governor Attahullah Ludin.
The explosion was followed by Taliban gunmen who laid siege to the station and remotely detonated two bombs nearby.
Two policemen and one civilian were killed while 14 policemen were wounded in the attack, said an interior ministry statement emailed to the media.
According to police spokesman Hazrat Hussain Mashrakiwal, the nearby building of the Afghan state-run radio and television was also heavily damaged in the explosion.
A bomb hidden in a motorized rickshaw and a second one in a vegetable cart near the police station were also detonated during the attack, likely by remote control, said the governor's spokesman, Ahmad Zia Abdulzai.
The interior ministry said five insurgents, who were involved in the attack, were killed. Police were searching for additional gunmen who may have escaped.
Two policemen were also killed in the firefight and a civilian, the ministry said.
Abdulzai told The Associated Press over the phone that two bodies could be seen lying on the ground outside the station but that the situation was under control. It was not immediately clear who the bodies belonged to.
In an email in Pashto — the language most often spoken by the Taliban — the insurgent group's spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the Taliban had staged the attack in Jalalabad.
The Taliban have carried out numerous attacks in Jalalabad and the country's east, which is their traditional stronghold, along with southern Afghanistan.
They have threatened a campaign of violence to disrupt the April 5 vote, which will choose a new Afghan president to lead the country as foreign troops prepare to end their combat mission by the end of the year.