A suicide attack in eastern Afghanistan set off a five-hour gun battle between militants and security forces, leaving six people dead and at least 33 injured, most of them civilians, provincial authorities said.
The attack took place early Saturday morning near the offices of the National Directorate of Security, the Afghan spy agency, in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province, according to local government spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzai.
A bomb-laden vehicle exploded at 5 a.m. local time, he said. Another vehicle rigged with explosives then detonated a few minutes later.
Five gunmen stormed in and the battle went on until about 10 a.m.
Initially, 59 people were taken to the hospital for injuries, but 26 were released fairly quickly after initial examinations. Another 33 were being treated for more serious wounds, according to hospital officials speaking to local media.
The Taliban sent an email to news organizations, including the Los Angeles Times, claiming responsibility for the attack and saying several members of the Afghan National Security Forces were killed. The Taliban often exaggerates its accounts.
Abdulzai verified two deaths among the security forces and 22 injuries, but would not comment further.
According to local media, a rocket fired during the gun battle landed in a nearby high school, accounting for at least 10 of the injured.
The powerful explosions of the car bombs shook the entire neighborhood, breaking windows and startling residents, the Associated Press reported.
“It was early morning and we were sleeping at home. A strong explosion happened followed by firing. When I came out of my room I was covered with dust, and my kids and I got injured from broken windows,” said Ahmad Shah.
Saturday’s attack comes as government forces continue to battle the armed opposition, who have launched operations in the northern province of Kunduz and Helmand in the south.
At least 1,500 Taliban fighters are said to be engaged in the Kunduz operation. In Helmand, at least 900 people — civilians and combatants — have been killed since fighting began in the Sangin district in June.
Latifi is a special correspondentCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Aug. 30, 9:46 a.m.: This story has been updated with details about the attack and gun battle and attribution.
Aug. 30, 5:06 a.m.: This story was updated with a new injury total and other details.
Aug. 30, 4:13 a.m.: This story was updated with details from the Associated Press.
This story was first posted at 10:18 p.m. Friday.