Militants storm Afghan government building

KABUL, Afghanistan — Gunmen wearing suicide vests stormed a government building in eastern Afghanistan early today and were in a shootout with Afghan security forces who surrounded the compound, officials said.

One guard was killed as the attackers — three or four men armed with guns and wearing explosives strapped to their bodies — shot their way into the traffic department compound on the edge of Khost city about 5 a.m., said Gen. Raz Mohammed Oryakhail, the army commander for Khost province.

The gunbattle was ongoing more than two hours later, with the assailants inside the second floor of the building and shooting down at police and soldiers outside, he said.

Police and soldiers were trying to avoid launching a full assault because they didn't want the gunmen to detonate their suicide vests, said the provincial police chief, Gen. Abdul Hakim Ishaqzai. Afghan security forces had the compound surrounded, he said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but it matched the pattern of Taliban assaults on government installations.

The attack came a day after a Taliban suicide bomber infiltrated the capital's main military hospital and killed at least six Afghan medical students. The bomber also wounded 23 others.

The bombing was a blow to Afghan and NATO forces who have sharply expanded checkpoints and security cordons in the Afghan capital as the Taliban intensifies their attacks ahead of a planned U.S. drawdown in July.

No foreign medical doctors or nurses were among the dead or wounded, the Defense Ministry said. There are a number of military doctors and nurses from various NATO countries at the hospital as part of the alliance's mission to train Afghan forces.

15 killed in Pakistan

At least 15 people were killed when a damaged oil tanker carrying fuel for NATO forces in Afghanistan exploded Saturday in Pakistan's northwestern tribal region, government officials said. The tanker was damaged when a bomb went off near a boys' college in Landi Kotal in the tribal region of Khyber agency. Local government officials said other oil tankers were crossing the border without interruption.

Deaths

As of Saturday, 1,474 U.S. troops have died in the war in Afghanistan. Identifications as reported by the U.S. military and not previously published:

Marine Sgt. Kevin B. Balduf, 27, Nashville; combat May 12; Helmand province.

Army Cpl. Brandon M. Kirton, 25, Centennial, Colo.; small-arms fire Wednesday; Kandahar province.

Army Spc. Bradley L. Melton, 29, Rolla, Mo.; explosion Monday; Zabul province.

Marine Lt. Col. Benjamin J. Palmer, 43, Modesto, Calif.; combat May 12; Helmand province.

Army Pvt. Cheizray Pressley, 21, North Charleston, S.C.; explosion Monday; Zabul province.

Army Sgt. Robert C. Schlote, 26, Norfolk, Neb.; noncombat-related medical illness May 14; Omaha, Neb.

Army Staff Sgt. David D. Self, 29, Pearl, Miss.; explosion Monday; Zabul province.

Militants storm Afghan government building 05/21/11 [Last modified: Sunday, May 22, 2011 12:26am]

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