At least 44 Afghans were killed in the biggest daily death toll this year as Taliban guerrillas attacked court facilities near the compound of a provincial governor following a suicide car bomb explosion.
Nine Taliban fighters armed with grenades, rocket launchers, Kalashnikov rifles and suicide vests carried out the assault, Abdul Rahman Zhowandai, a spokesman for Farah province, said in a phone interview. Eight insurgents managed to enter the court and attorney general’s office after a man “blew himself up” in a car near the provincial court’s entrance gate, Zhowandai said.
The dead included 10 Afghan security personnel, Zhowandai said. At least 91 people, including 20 members of Afghan security forces, were wounded, he said. A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, claimed responsibility in a phone interview, saying members of the group were on trial in the court.
The battle, in a province that borders Iran, lasted eight hours. The dead and wounded included some government workers who had been taken hostage, Zhowandai said.
Afghan forces are taking lead in many security operations ahead of the withdrawal of U.S.-led international forces by the end of 2014.
“Taliban are still powerful and significantly supported militarily,” Jawid Kohestani, a Kabul-based political analyst, said in a phone interview today. “Taliban’s well-coordinated assault is giving the incentive for foreign troops to prolong their presence and not to leave Afghanistan by 2014 until the war ends completely.”
U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered the withdrawal of half of the roughly 68,000 American troops by next February. American officials have said the president is considering keeping 8,000 to 12,000 forces from the U.S. and NATO to support and train Afghans or play a limited role fighting terrorists if an agreement can be reached to secure their immunity from local prosecution.