Gunmen attack Afghan government building, kill 6

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack in Khost province in a text message to The Associated Press. The attack came a day after a Taliban suicide bomber slipped inside the capital's main military hospital and killed at least six Afghan medical students worrying reminders of militants' ability to infiltrate locations thought to be secure.

In today's attack, four men armed with assault rifles and wearing explosives drove shortly before dawn into a compound that houses the provincial traffic department on the edge of Khost city, provincial Police Chief Gen Abdul Hakim Ishaqzai said.

Security forces stopped the men, who were wearing uniforms of the Afghan border police, only after becoming suspicious of the civilian station wagon they drove, he said.

Guards opened fire on the attackers, but the men were able to occupy the upper floor of the building, Ishaqzai said. The attackers shot at Afghan security forces from their vantage point as a fire raged through the structure. AP Television News video showed US soldiers surrounding an outer wall and shouting orders as Afghan troops rushed toward the building, which was engulfed by smoke.

Two of the attackers detonated their bomb vests during the fighting, with one bomber killing two Afghan soldiers, said Gen Raz Mohammad Oryakhail, the army commander for Khost province. Security forces shot the other two attackers to death.

Three police officers and a gardener working at the site were also killed in the attack, Ishaqzai said. Five police officers and one civilian were wounded.

Soldiers defused more explosives found inside the attackers' station wagon. The police chief said the Taliban attackers could have been stopped before taking the building had a guard's assault rifle not jammed. The US provided Afghan police with some of the Hungarian-made AMD-65 rifles, which have been criticised for their poor performance.

Meanwhile, US forces in southern Afghanistan shot a governor's spokesman in the foot today as he arrived to work. Spokesman Zalmai Ayubi said US forces shot him as he arrived at the gate of the Kandahar governor's office for no reason. Ayubi leaned on a cane as he spoke with reporters, his left foot bandaged.

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