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    Taliban Attack Afghan Courthouse, Killing 44

    Afghan officials say an hours-long firefight with Taliban militants killed 44 people, mostly civilians, and wounded more than 70 others in western Afghanistan.

    Authorities say security forces were able to kill all nine attackers Wednesday, some seven hours after they stormed a government compound in Farah province.

    According to the provincial police chief, the aim of the attack had been to free Taliban prisoners who were being transferred to a courthouse in the area for trial.

    The insurgents were able to pass through security checkpoints apparently because they were traveling in Afghan national army vehicles.

    Two of the attackers died after detonating a car bomb near the gate of the courthouse, while another was shot by security forces and the others took cover in nearby buildings.

    The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying they had been able to free their captured comrades, but authorities deny the insurgents were freed.

    Most NATO combat troops are due to leave Afghanistan by the end of next year, leaving security responsibility to Afghan forces and raising fears of increased militant violence.

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