Eight Taliban suicide bombers attacked a police headquarters in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad on Tuesday, officials said, killing five officers and wounding four others.
The pre-dawn, three-hour attack in the country’s largest city coincided with the visit of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
To initiate the attack, an insurgent in a bomb-laden car detonated his vehicle in front of the Jalalabad Police Quick Reaction Force headquarters. This was followed by another seven assailants wearing bomb vests who stormed the compound, police said. Three of those attackers triggered their explosive vests inside the compound while the other four were shot by police during a gunfight that lasted more than an hour.
Nangarhar provincial police chief Mohammad Sharif Amin said some of the attackers were wearing uniforms resembling those worn by the U.S.-led NATO coalition.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack.
After his visit in Jordan and the region, Kerry arrived to Kabul on an unannounced visit amid concerns that Afghani President Hamid Karzai may be jeopardizing progress in the war against extremism with anti-American rhetoric. After a private meeting, Kerry said he and Karzai were “on the same page” on security and reconciliation issues and brushed aside suggestions that relations were in peril.
Karzai infuriated U.S. officials earlier this month by accusing Washington of colluding with Taliban insurgents to keep Afghanistan weak even as the Obama administration pressed ahead with plans to hand off security responsibility to Afghan forces and end NATO’s combat mission by the end of next year.
Insurgents have in recent months been carrying out complex attacks involving car bombs and gunmen in bomb vests against government and police buildings around the country.
The attacks are expected to intensify as the traditional spring fighting season gets underway. Heavy snow and bad weather conditions usually put a damper on fighting during the harsh Afghan winter.
On March 14, the Afghan intelligence service seized a massive truck bomb packed with eight tons of explosives on the eastern outskirts of Kabul. They also killed five suspected suicide bombers and arrested two others during a raid to seize the truck.
The truck was apparently meant to carry out an attack on a NATO facility in the capital. According to Afghan intelligence, the truck bomb bore the hallmarks of the Haqqani network, which is known for conducting spectacular attacks.
Affiliated with the Taliban, the network is run by the Haqqani family and is based across the border in Pakistan.