KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Suicide bombers and gunmen stormed a police compound in southern Afghanistan Thursday, opening fire and setting off explosions in a co-ordinated attack that killed six Afghan security forces.
American Black Hawk helicopters and at least eight U.S. armoured vehicles rushed to support dozens of Afghan troops battling the assailants at the three-building police complex in restive Kandahar province.
One suicide bomber pretended to be an ambulance driver and detonated his explosives after wounded officers were placed inside the marked rescue vehicle, said Kandahar Police Chief Khan Mohammad Mujahid.
All three attackers blew themselves up, Mujahid said.
“I heard a blast and after that continuous fighting with rocket launchers,” said Kandahar provincial policeman Ashrafullah Agha. After a third large explosion, Agha cut off the interview.
Attacks and fighting in Afghanistan have intensified recently, with insurgents coming from neighbouring Pakistan as the annual spring fighting season gets under way.
In a separate incident, an Afghan border policeman who shot dead two U.S. soldiers earlier this week was killed on Thursday during a joint operation by Afghan and coalition troops, NATO said.
NATO said the operation took place in northern Faryab province.
“The successful operation resulted in the death of the individual responsible for the shooting. Two other suspected insurgents were detained for further questioning,” NATO said in a statement.
On Monday, an Afghan border policeman shot and killed Sgt. Scott H. Burgess, 32, of Franklin, Texas, and Sgt. Michael S. Lammerts, 26, of Tonawanda, New York. Both had been training Afghan security forces. They had been assigned to the 1st Battalion, 84th Field Artillery Regiment, 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team from Baumholder, Germany.
Monday’s shooting took place inside a base in Faryab and the border policeman fled.
There have been numerous cases in the past of Afghan soldiers or police turning on their Western counterparts, or of an insurgent disguising himself in uniform to infiltrate a compound and attack from inside.
The insurgency has hit Afghan forces hard in the past several weeks.
Fighting has also raged in eastern Afghanistan, and NATO said it had concluded what it described as a “significant operation” in mountainous Kunar province near the border with Pakistan. More than 80 insurgents were killed after joint Afghan and coalition forces cleared militants out of four villages, NATO said.
“Insurgents had been using the area to move supplies and men into Kunar province and to stage attacks on Afghan and coalition forces,” NATO said in a statement.
Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defence said late Wednesday that more than 130 insurgents were killed in the area over the past two weeks. Few details have been released, but at least six U.S. soldiers were killed in the area last week.
NATO said another service member was killed in an insurgent attack in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday. The service member’s nationality and other details were not released, but it brought the number of deaths to six this month and 104 so far this year.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed that only 24 insurgents had been killed in the operations.
Some Afghans are tiring of the Taliban. In the northern province of Sari Pul, hundreds of villagers repelled a group of 40 Taliban fighters with stones, sticks, axes, and shovels, according to provincial police chief Asadullah Shirzaid. Provincial police also clashed with the Taliban, killing one insurgent and wounding six others.
Shirzaid said the insurgents had repeatedly demanded food and money from villagers in Kariz, and when they came demanding sheep and money for ammunition, the villagers attacked them and called the provincial police.