Afghanistan: gunmen storm government building in eastern city

Suicide attackers killed at least 15 people and injured another 15 when they stormed government offices in eastern , and took dozens of hostages during an hours-long standoff with security forces.

Three attackers arrived at the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations just after midday on Tuesday, and a bomber launched the attack by detonating his explosives at the heavily guarded entrance.

That allowed the two other gunmen to rush inside, where a group of charities were meeting to discuss support for Afghans returning from Pakistan, where many have lived as refugees for decades.

“More than 40 people were at the conference, to make decisions about people who are coming back to Afghanistan,” said Niloofar Aziz, a member of the provincial council.

The attack in Jalalabad came as 11 people were killed by a roadside bomb on the other side of Afghanistan, when a minibus in western Farah drove over explosives.

Overall 2018 has been a bloody year for Afghan civilians, with, according to the United Nations. That is the highest rate since the UN began keeping records nearly a decade ago.

Also on Tuesday, unknown attackers seized 22 people from vehicles on a highway in the east, Reuters reported.

In Jalalabad the head of the ministry for refugees and several other people were taken to safety, but at least one group inside the building were captured by the attackers, said Attaullah Khogyani, spokesman for the provincial governor.

“The latest numbers are 15 killed and 15 injured. They include one woman and one member of the security forces,” he said.

The killings were not immediately claimed, but the were quick to deny responsibility. “Today’s explosion and attacks near public health office of Jalalabad city have nothing to do with the [Taliban],” its spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Twitter.

Although the Taliban are not always reliable in seeking or denying attribution for their own attacks, eastern Afghanistan has endured a string of bloody attacks by the regional branch of Islamic State.

Many have been in and around Jalalabad, gateway both to Pakistan and to lawless mountain regions that have long been a base for some of the most extreme insurgents fighting in Afghanistan. The regional Isis affiliate first appeared around here in 2014.

Esmatullah Shinwary, a local MP, said he was particularly worried about the spread of the regional Isis branch.

“Everywhere in the country, especially in Nangarhar province, the government is just trying to save its checkpoints and has a defensive attitude, they have no plan to attack,” he said.

“Isis rose from some small frontier districts at first but the government didn’t care much and now it has activities all over the eastern provinces and even beyond. If the government doesn’t take serious action, Isis will spread further around Afghanistan.”

Attacks the group have claimed include at a time when the rest of the country was celebrating a brief ceasefire between the Taliban and government forces.

Source : theguardian[dot]com