Deadly attack on police compound adds to 'drumbeat' of violence in Afghanistan

Attackers stormed a police compound in Afghanistan's Khost province, killing at least three police officers Sunday. It's latest in a series of insurgent attacks on government, military, or police compounds.

Nishanuddin Khan/AP
Afghan policemen, and US and Afghan soldiers on alert near the police traffic department building, which was under attack by insurgents in Khost, eastern of Afghanistan on Sunday.

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Suicide attackers wearing police uniforms stormed a police compound in eastern Afghanistan Sunday, killing at least three police officers and wounding at least two other people.

The attack, which took place in Khost province, near the lawless tribal region on the Pakistan border, comes after a Taliban attack on a hospital in Kabul Saturday that killed six people and wounded 23 others, reportedly carried out by an insurgent wearing an Army uniform. They are the latest in a series of attacks in which insurgents, some wearing security forces uniforms, have infiltrated or breached security at government, military or police compounds in Afghanistan.

Agence France-Presse reports that the assault began in the early-morning hours when four men in border police uniforms, armed with suicide vests and rifles, fought their way into a traffic police headquarters. Afghan and NATO troops arrived at the compound and a gun battle erupted between the two sides that lasted several hours, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The Times reports that police also discovered an explosives-laden vehicle that apparently failed to detonate. The Khost provincial police chief, Gen. Abdul Hakim Hisaqzai, said police are investigating how the attackers were able to enter the compound so quickly.

But such attacks have become “a near daily drumbeat” since the Taliban began its spring offensive, according to the Times.

The Christian Science Monitor reported in early May that fighting does not usually peak until July, but this spring has already seen an 80 percent increase in militant attacks over last year. NATO troops are set to begin withdrawing in July, though the full withdrawal will not be complete until 2014.

Saturday’s attack took place inside the compound of the main military hospital in Kabul. The hospital is in a “mostly secured” part of the Afghan capital near the US embassy, reports The Washington Post. Officials are investigating how the attacker, who wore a suicide vest, got past the hospital’s substantial security. He blew himself up near a tent where medical students were having lunch, reports the Post, killing six people and wounding 23. The Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack, but did not say whether the attacker had infiltrated the Afghan Army.

Last month, an Afghan Air Force pilot opened fire in the Kabul Airport, killing eight American troops and one contractor. Also in April, a Taliban militant killed two Afghan soldiers inside the Afghan Defense Ministry. Militants attacked government, police, and intelligence service buildings in Kandahar two weeks ago, gaining control of some of the offices before Afghan and NATO forces defeated them.

All the attacks have come as part of the Taliban’s annual spring offensive. The Associated Press reports that NATO forces arrested thousands of Taliban militants over the winter, and seized hundreds of weapons caches.

Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, the second-ranking U.S. general in Afghanistan, predicted recently that the Taliban — having lost ground during the fall and winter — will employ more indirect tactics such as suicide attacks and assassinations.

[Taliban spokesman Zabiullah] Mujahid said that was part of the Taliban's strategy against the government. "The mujahedeen are able to infiltrate into the ranks of the enemy and using opportunities are able to attack," he said.

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