53 die as Taliban hit Afghan police centre



Twin suicide bombings and gunfire on a police training centre in Afghanistan's eastern province of Paktia on Tuesday left at least 53 people dead, including a provincial police chief, and over 150 wounded in a gory terror attack.

Among the dead were included training centre members, police personnel and civilians. The toll, which has steadily risen since the first deaths, could go up further as some of those in hospitals were said to be in critical condition.

The attack, claimed by the Taliban, took place in Gardez city, 100 km south of Kabul and the capital of Paktia province that borders Pakistan.

Deputy Interior Minister Murad Ali Murad told the media in Kabul that the death toll included 21 security personnel and 25 civilians while the number of wounded was 48 security forces members and 110 civilians.

All seven militants were also killed in the attack, taking the total death toll to 53.

The Interior Ministry said the horrific attack ended with the death of the seven assailants. Two of them used vehicles packed with explosives to target the entrance to the police centre while five others engaged the stunned police in a three-hour gunfight.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid claimed the attack and confirmed the use of two vehicles -- a truck and a stolen police vehicle. "In both attacks tens of police were killed, buildings destroyed," Mujahid said.

The provincial police chief who died was identified as Toryalai Abdyani. 

The attack began around 9.30 a.m. when a suicide bomber detonated himself outside a police barrack and followed it up with a car bomb, a spokesperson for Paktia Governor Abdullah Hasrat told Efe news agency.

The deafening explosion was followed by gunfire as the militants stormed the police centre and the security personnel fought back. 

In June, six Taliban fighters had attacked the same barracks, killing 11 people and wounding 20.

Over the last two-and-a-half years, the Afghan government has been losing ground to an aggressive Taliban and now controls only 57 per cent of the country, according to the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).

SIGAR data also shows that between January and November 2016, at least 6,785 Afghan security personnel were killed and 11,777 wounded, coinciding with an escalation in the conflict. - IANS