ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - Taliban suicide bombers and gunmen stormed a police station early Thursday morning in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, killing at least 11 people, including 10 policemen, and wounding about 20 others.
It was shortly after dawn when a group of Taliban gunmen and suicide bombers swarmed around the police station in Jalalabad. Authorities said seven suicide bombers coordinated to blow open a path into the building, then detonated their explosives once inside.
General Ayub Salangi, Afghanistan’s deputy minister for security in the Interior Ministry, said most of those killed were police. He said the enemy arrived at the police zone gate at 5 a.m. local time, with a vehicle full of explosives. Once they had opened a way in, hand-to-hand fighting started, then suicide bombers detonated their explosive-filled jackets inside the compound.
Salangi said Jalalabad police chief Aminullah Khan was killed in the assault.
The ministry said gun battles between security forces and the militants lasted hours after the initial attack, as victims were being rushed to local hospitals. The blasts also damaged the nearby state-owned RTA-TV building and shops.
A Taliban spokesman later claimed credit in an email to journalists for the strike.
The Jalalabad attack is the latest in a series of Taliban strikes around the country this year, targeting Afghan army, police, and international workers.
The militant group has vowed to attack anyone involved in the upcoming April 5 presidential election, adding to the feeling of insecurity in the country.
This attack comes just two days after another suicide bombing in Faryab in the north, near a security checkpoint at a local market. That blast killed more than 15 people and left scores wounded.
The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday said it was seriously concerned at the threats posed by the Taliban, al-Qaida and other illegal armed groups in Afghanistan.
Javid Faisal, campaign spokesman for one of the front runner candidates, Zalmai Rasoul, said Thursday’s attack was part of a tactic by “specific groups” to disrupt the voting process.
“They have been trying to intimidate people and make sure that those people are not participating in the election. But we hope the people of Afghanistan will come out to vote for their candidate on the day of the election.”
Analysts say despite the attacks, overall security in the country is better than it was during the last presidential ballot in 2009.
But Ahmad Sear Mahjoor, an expert and author of Afghan socio-political development, said he believes violence is not the biggest problem in the upcoming election. “In my opinion, I am most uneasy over the question of fraud and question of legitimacy of this election, where already you have certain parties accusing each other and the government of interfering in this election,” he said.
Without credible elections, Mahjoor warned, the country could plunge into further instability.