Insurgents attacked a U.S.-run civilian and military base with rocket-propelled grenades and guns in a brazen early afternoon assault in the southern city of Kandahar, a traditional Taliban stronghold, Afghan officials said Thursday. Two attackers were killed.
Kandahar provincial police chief, Gen. Abdul Razzaq, who was at the base for a meeting when the attack began, said at least three insurgents took over an office in front of the base and started shooting. Fighting continues at the base, which is home to NATO troops, including Americans, and a provincial reconstruction team.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul said in an email that the attack on the base began at roughly 2:45 p.m., with the attackers using rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire. The Embassy said U.S. State Department personnel are "safe and accounted for, but there are unconfirmed reports of a number of other injuries."
NATO said no coalition troops were killed in the attack. Two coalition troops were wounded, according to an Afghan employee at the base, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared retribution.
Medical officials at a hospital in Kandahar said that at least two civilians and a member of the Afghan security forces were wounded in the attack on the base. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.
The provincial chief, Razzaq, said police had cleared one floor of the office, killing two attackers, and were moving to the second floor. Coalition forces also intentionally blew up three vehicles packed with explosives that had been parked near the base, he said.
The attack was the latest in a violence-filled day in the southern province of Kandahar that had long been viewed as a Taliban stronghold. Afghan and coalition forces have made gains in the south over the past two years, but insurgents have shifted their operations further east and to some northern provinces.
Earlier in the day, a 13-year-old girl died from injuries sustained after her family's home was struck by an insurgent's missile in Kandahar province's Zhari district, the provincial governor's office said in a statement. The missile appeared to be aimed at the district's center, but overshot its target.
In the province's Panjwai district, a suicide attacker in a car struck a NATO convoy early Thursday, said district chief Fazluddin Agha. It was unclear if there were any fatalities among NATO personnel, but one civilian was killed in the blast, according to officials at a hospital in Kandahar. The officials, speaking anonymously, had earlier said the civilian died during the attack on the base in Kandahar.
On Wednesday night, a 10-year-old boy lost both his legs in a roadside bombing in Kandahar's Khakrez district, the governor's office said.
The violence underscores the tenuous progress in the war-ravaged nation, a decade after the U.S.-led an invasion to oust the Taliban from power.
Tens of thousands of Afghan and coalition troops deployed in the south have succeeded in routing insurgents from their strongholds and are now trying to hold the areas to allow the Afghan government to gain a better foothold. Insurgents are ill-equipped to fight the Afghan and coalition forces directly, but launch strikes targeting institutions or individuals aligned with the government.
In tandem with the ongoing battle against militants, Afghan officials are also fighting corruption _ an issue that directly affects their ability to boost the local security forces who are tasked with stabilizing the country.
In neighboring Helmand province, the governor's office said an Afghan police officer has been accused of kidnapping Abdul Satar, a tribal elder and son of a former governor of Helmand. The officer is accused of trying to extort $200,000 from the victim's family.
A search operation located man who was abducted after he had been held for about 13 hours. The police officer was arrested, and authorities are trying to find two other policemen suspected of being involved in the kidnapping.
In another case, eight policemen and three suspected killers have been arrested in Herat province in the west in connection with the death of a civilian in Nahri Sarraj district of Helmand province, the governor's office said.
Also in the west, an Afghan policeman was killed when his vehicle hit a roadside bomb Thursday afternoon in Pusht Rod district of Farah province, provincial police chief Sayad Mohammad Roshandil said.
Associated Press writer Amir Shah in Kabul contributed.