At least 21 dead, many hurt in Afghan Taliban raid

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Kandahar, Feb 12 (AP) Taliban insurgents armed withbombs, automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades attackedthe Kandahar police headquarters today during a bloody assaulton the southern Afghan city that killed at least 21 people andwounded dozens more.

The bold afternoon raid showed insurgents are stillable to launch deadly strikes on heavily fortified governmentinstitutions despite the past year''s influx of US troops intoKandahar province, the Taliban''s birthplace. The Talibanclaimed responsibility for the attack.

Fifteen of those killed were Afghan police officers,said provincial Governor Toryalai Wesa. Interior Ministryspokesman Zemeri Bashary said three Afghan soldiers, twocivilians and one intelligence service agent also died in theassault.

Insurgents first struck around noon, detonating aseries of explosions that rocked the area near the provincialpolice headquarters. The police post is located in centralKandahar, not far from the governor''s offices.

Initial reports suggest a car bomb exploded outsidethe police compound, and then immediately afterward twosuicide bombers tried to storm the headquarters but blewthemselves up outside the perimeter wall, according to NATOofficials in Kandahar.

Five militants fitted with suicide vests battled withpolice for several hours, Bashary said.

Some occupied a multistory building housing a weddinghall across the street from the headquarters. From there, theyfired on the police headquarters compound with automaticrifles and rocket-propelled grenades.

An Associated Press reporter nearby said multipleexplosions rocked the neighbourhood around the station.

Exchanges of gunfire occasionally died down, only to pick upagain several minutes later.

Residents quickly shuttered shops and took coverinside as the fighting raged, and NATO vehicles could be seeninside the city.

Helicopters hovered over the city as police deployedextra forces on the streets and around government buildings.

Several loud explosions again rattled buildings more than anhour after the first blast struck. (AP)

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