Taliban kill 13 Afghan soldiers, police

Taliban fighters struck at Afghan security forces Sunday,
storming an army recruiting center in the north that sparked a daylong
gunbattle, and ambushing a bus carrying army officers in the capital — the
first major attack in Kabul in months.

At least 13 Afghan security forces were killed in the two
attacks, with the firefight at the recruiting center in the northern province
of Kunduz ending only after the last remaining militant detonated his suicide
vest, local police officials said. The Taliban claimed responsibility for both
operations.

Separately, the head of the violence-wracked Chahar Dara
district of Kunduz survived an ambush when a powerful roadside bomb detonated
as he passed by in a police vehicle on his way to his office. District chief
Abdul Wahid Omarkhel said insurgents opened fire on the car after the blast,
but his bodyguards returned fire and nobody was hurt.

The violence in Kunduz, which has seen security
deteriorate over the past two years, came a day after German Chancellor Angela
Merkel visited her country’s troops stationed in the province — a trip referred
to by Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid in his claim of responsibility for
the two attacks.

“The purpose of her trip was to give morale to her
soldiers. But today the successful attack is shaking the hearts of the
occupation soldiers,” Mujahid said.

Most of the fighting in Afghanistan has been concentrated
in the south. An internal review of President Barack Obama’s year-old war
strategy unveiled Thursday noted progress against Taliban momentum,
particularly in southern areas which saw a surge of international troop levels.
But the Taliban have been showing they can strike outside those areas, and
violence has increased elsewhere in the country this year — the deadliest in
the nearly 10-year war for foreign troops.

NATO said an international service member died in a bomb
attack in the south Sunday, bringing the total number of foreign troops killed
in Afghanistan this year to 690, according to an Associated Press count. Previously,
the worst year of war was 2009, with 502 foreign troops killed.

Some other news organizations count deaths suffered by
service members assigned elsewhere as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, which
includes operations in the Philippines, the Horn of Africa and at the U.S.
detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, making their totals slightly
higher.

In Sunday’s attack in Kabul, two insurgents strapped with
explosives ambushed a bus carrying Afghan army officers to work during the
morning rush hour on the outskirts of the capital, killing five and wounding
nine, said Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi.

The two attackers first opened fire on the bus before one
of them detonated his explosives near the vehicle. Soldiers shot the second man
dead, Azimi said.

A witness, Hamidullah Khan, said the gunmen ambushed the
bus as it was heading down Jalalabad Road, a main route into the city center.

“The army vehicles were passing this road and then
the Taliban or some sort of insurgents started shooting at them,” Khan
said.

The Afghan capital has been relatively peaceful for
several months, aside from some scattered attacks with few casualties. The last
major attack in Kabul was a suicide bombing against a NATO convoy in May that
killed 18 people, including six NATO troops — three American colonels and a
Canadian colonel among them.

The attack in Kunduz began at daybreak, when four
militants stormed the recruitment center. At least one of the attackers
survived and fierce fighting broke out inside the compound. The gunbattle raged
through the day and into early evening, Afghan authorities said.

Kunduz deputy police chief Abdul Rahman Aqtash said four
Afghan soldiers and four police officers were killed, and that the fighting
ended when the last surviving militant detonated his suicide vest. Provincial
deputy governor Hamdullah Danishi said initial reports indicated the attackers
were dressed in army uniforms.

NATO said international forces were involved “in a
supporting role to Afghan forces” and were also providing medical
assistance, but could not immediately provide further details.

Separately in the south, a roadside bomb in the province
of Kandahar blew up a passing civilian car, killing the driver and wounding
four children, said Panjwai district chief Haji Baran.

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