Kabul on the boil on poll eve

Security forces kill 3 gunmen who stormed a bank building in the capital

Kabul on the boil on poll eve

 In another violent episode a day before the Afghan national election, three gunmen seized control of a commercial bank branch in central Kabul on Wednesday morning, engaging in an extended firefight with police before they were killed, police and witnesses said.

The gunmen were armed with AK-47 assault rifles and hand grenades, police officials said.

Sayed Abdul Ghaffar, head of the criminal department of the Kabul police, said the men were “terrorists” and had entered the five-storey building of the commercial bank and started shooting at the police as they approached from the street below.
The incident came as the Taliban stepped up efforts to disrupt the nationwide presidential election on Thursday with suicide attacks, roadside bombings and other actions.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s bank attack and said 20 insurgents had been sent into Kabul to carry out suicide attacks. Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the group, claimed that five men had seized the bank and killed a number of policemen.

“The rest of the suicide bombers are looking for the targets elsewhere in Kabul city,” he said by telephone.

Mohammad Omar, 58, owner of a small tea shop close to the bank, saw two of the men entering the bank. He said they were young men with AK-47 rifles and hand grenades, with ammunition strapped to their chests. When the police arrived they started shooting, he said.

“I saw two of them with guns and grenades” Mohammad Omar said “I told them there is no one in the bank but then I realised they were armed with weapons,” he said.

“They were ordinary good looking men dressed in Afghan clothes,” he said.

A police officer at the scene said three officers with the Afghan counter-terrorism police were wounded during the firefight. The government officials did not confirm the injuries of the policemen.

Most Afghanis stayed home on Wednesday as the country observed the national holiday marking independence from Britain; government and big commercial buildings were closed.

Officials reported further violence around the country, in particular from roadside bombs and mines.

Mine attacks

District chief of Registan, Najibullah Baloch, and a tribal elder were killed when their vehicle struck a mine in the road in the southern province of Kandahar, the deputy provincial police chief, Fazli Ahmad Shizad, said. Two policemen were injured in the blast. Three policemen were also killed in another explosion on the highway between Kandahar and Oruzgan provinces on Wednesday morning, he said.

A number of election workers also have been killed in the last 24 hours. Two election workers were killed by roadside bomb on their way to Shorabak district in Kandahar on Tuesday, the regional director of the election commission, Abdul Wasi Alokozai, said.  

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