Militants in eastern Afghanistan launched a brazen series of pre-dawn attacks on Thursday at a police facility in Jalalabad, leaving 10 officers dead.
The attack, which killed the district police chief and wounded 14 officers, began at about 5 a.m. when a car laden with explosives breached the gate of the police headquarters, the New York Times reports. After the initial blast, six bombers stormed the facility. Government officials said two were killed before they could detonate their explosives, but the others managed to ignite their devices. That kicked off a three-hour gun battle inside the compound.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack that comes weeks before the presidential elections on April 5, which it has vowed to disrupt. Militants have carried out attacks against civilians in recent weeks, but government officials publicly insist they won’t be intimidated as candidates travel the country before the ballot. “Such attacks on our security forces will not weaken our morale,” Attullah Lodin, Nangarhar Province’s governor, told the Times. “I assure you that we continue to fight the enemies.”
Thursday’s attack underscores critical security issues ahead of the planned withdrawal of foreign forces at the end of the year. The United States has discussed keeping thousands of troops in Afghanistan, but Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign a bilateral security agreement and will leave it to his successor.