Attack at southern Afghanistan bank leaves at least 12 dead

Six civilians and a security guard were among at least 12 killed in attack on Afghan bank

An hours-long gun battle at a bank in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday killed at least 12 people, including five attackers, and wounded nine others, officials said.

The attack on a branch of the New Kabul Bank in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, began when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden vest near the bank entrance. Upon entering the bank, the remaining four attackers engaged in a three-hour firefight with Afghan security forces and bank guards.

The dead included six civilians and one bank security guard, said an Afghan security official who was not authorized to be quoted by name. The wounded were five civilians and four security personnel, he said.

The attack began at 11:30 a.m. and targeted members of the Afghan security forces, who had come to the bank to collect their monthly salaries.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Local media also reported a separate explosion caused by a rickshaw loaded with explosives that injured two people.

Elsewhere, two explosions in the eastern province of Nangarhar killed two police officers and wounded four others, including a provincial official. Both blasts occurred in the provincial capital of Jalalabad.

Ahmadzia Abdulzai, spokesman for the acting governor, told reporters that the first blast occurred when a police vehicle struck a remote controlled mine. Two police officers were killed and the director of Nangarhar’s passport services department was one of two wounded.

The second blast occurred approximately 30 minutes later when another police vehicle drove over a land mine.

With increasing violence in Nangarhar -- and throughout the country -- President Ashraf Ghani has said the province would be among five where new governors would be appointed in the coming weeks.

Latifi is a special correspondent.

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