Kandahar (Afghanistan), Dec 17: Taliban militants detonated a suicide bomb and stormed a bank in southern Afghanistan today, killing at least six people as the country endures a rise in violence while US-led NATO troops pull out.
The attackers forced their way inside after the bomb exploded at the entrance of the Kabul Bank branch in Lashkar Gah, the capital of the insurgency-racked province of Helmand.
"The blast at the gate was a suicide attacker blowing himself up to open the way for others to enter the building," Omar Zhwak, provincial spokesman for Helmand, told AFP.
"The fighting is still ongoing. Our latest report show six people, including three police, have been killed and seven wounded. One attacker was also killed and two are still resisting. It was the government employees' payday and they had all come to get their salaries."
Farid Ahmad Obaidi, Helmand's police spokesman, confirmed the incident, which comes as Afghanistan police and army take over security duties nationwide. Officials were unable to confirm if any civilians were trapped inside the branch.
A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack on Kabul Bank, an institution that nearly collapsed in 2010 in a USD 900 million fraud case that underlined endemic corruption in Afghanistan.
On December 31, the NATO combat mission in Afghanistan will end after 13 years of fighting the Taliban. It will be replaced by a 12,500-strong support mission to advise and assist the Afghan security forces.
Recent deadly attacks have targeted army buses, mine clearance teams and foreign compounds in Kabul.