KHOST, Afghanistan: The death toll from two suicide and gun attacks on Afghan security forces in southeast Afghanistan has risen to 80 with nearly 300 wounded, officials said Wednesday, in the bloodiest day in the country in almost five months.
The deadliest of Tuesday’s assaults was on a police compound in the city of Gardez in Paktia province where Taliban militants disguised as police detonated three explosive-packed vehicles — including a truck and a Humvee — that cleared the way for 11 gunmen to enter.
At least 60 people, including Paktia police chief Toryalai Abdyani and civilians waiting to collect documents, were killed in the blasts and ensuing battle that lasted around five hours, Gardez deputy director of health Hedayatullah Hamidi told AFP.
Some 236 people were also wounded in the assault, he added.
“The first checkpoint for the compound was blown up by a truck bomb. Two other vehicles then entered the compound — one detonated near the second checkpoint and the other rammed into the police chief’s office that killed the police chief and his bodyguards,” said Paktia governor spokesman Abdullah Hasrat.
The militants had been wearing police uniforms and carrying fake police identification, Hasrat said — a common tactic used by insurgents to gain entry to government and security installations.
Police spokesman Sardar Wali Tabasum said two members of the security forces had been arrested in connection with the attack, suggesting the assailants had insider help.
“We think the Taliban took these vehicles (a Humvee and a police pickup truck) when Jani Khel district fell to them in August,” Tabasum told AFP. Jani Khel is about 50 kilometres (30 miles) east of Gardez.
In the second attack in the neighbouring province of Ghazni, some 100 kilometres west of Gardez, the official death toll was lowered to 20, including 15 members of the security forces and five civilians, Ghazni governor spokesman Haref Noori told AFP.
The number of wounded stood at 46.
That assault followed a similar pattern involving insurgents detonating an explosives-laden Humvee near a police headquarters then storming the building, Noori said. Six attackers were killed.
An earlier toll had put the number of dead at 30 with 10 injured.
It was the deadliest day in Afghanistan since May 31 when a truck packed with 1,500 kilogrammes of explosives detonated in the diplomatic quarter of the capital Kabul, killing around 150 and wounding hundreds more, mostly civilians.
Kabul police foiled an even larger truck bomb on Saturday — 2,700 kilogrammes of explosives stashed under boxes of tomatoes — that would have caused carnage had it exploded.
Less than two days later authorities seized a car driving towards Kabul that was carrying 300 kilogrammes of explosives.