x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

BBC man among 17 killed in Afghan suicide strike

Taliban claim responsibility for coordinated assault that began with suicide bombings on official buildings and a militia base in the provincial capital of Trinkot.

KANDAHAR // Triple suicide blasts and gun attacks killed 17 people including an Afghan BBC reporter in a continuing attack in the Afghan province of Uruzgan yesterday, officials said.

The Taliban immediately claimed responsibility for the coordinated assault that began with suicide bombings on official buildings and a militia base in the provincial capital Trinkot.

It is the deadliest insurgent attack in Afghanistan for several weeks and comes after Nato-led forces symbolically handed over security control of seven areas in the war-torn country to Afghan troops.

The provincial health director, Khan Agha Miakhail, said: "There are 17 killed and 37 people are wounded so far," adding that there were children among the dead and warning that the toll may rise.

The BBC said that one of its reporters, Omid Khpalwak, was among those killed. Mr Khpalwak also worked for the Afghan news agency Pajhwok.

One explosion happened just outside the gates of the deputy governor's office, which is next to the main hospital for Trinkot.

The army spokesman, Hekmatullah Kuchi, said: "There were two blasts at the deputy governor's office. One was detonated by a suicide bomber and the other was caused by an ANA (Afghan army) soldier shooting another suicide attacker.

"The second suicide blast took place at Matiullah Khan's base, who is not wounded," said Mr Kuchi, referring to a well-known militia commander in the area.

The public health ministry spokesman, Kargar Noorughli, said a policeman and a child had been among those killed in the suicide blast at the deputy governor's office.

A witness, who asked not to be named, said five explosions were heard in the area. "I saw two myself from our roof. One near Matiullah's (place) and the other by the government compound. There was shooting in the streets," she said.

The militia commander's base and the deputy governor's offices are about a kilometre apart, Mr Kuchi said. Earlier reports said the police chief's office had been targeted.

A spokesman for Nato's International Security Assistance Force said it had sent reinforcements to the scene, including helicopters, to assist in repelling the assault.

The latest southern violence comes at a crucial juncture in the nearly 10-year war on Taliban-led insurgents, as thousands of US surge troops prepare to go home and other western nations announce limited withdrawals of soldiers.

All foreign combat forces are due to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014, and last week a first tranche of handovers from Nato to Afghan forces took place in seven parts of the country.