At least 10 people were killed and more than 40 injured when militants detonated bombs and stormed a government building on Sunday in an hours-long attack in an eastern Afghan city claimed by the Islamic State group, officials said.
The assault in the eastern city of Jalalabad was the latest deadly violence to strike Afghanistan as militant groups step up attacks and U.S.-backed Afghan forces intensify airstrikes and ground offensives.
It began around 12:50 p.m. when the militants detonated a car bomb at the entrance to the city finance department, “opening the way for a number of armed attackers to enter the building,” Nangarhar provincial governor’s spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told AFP.
Terrified employees flung themselves from windows to escape as security forces battled the attackers for more than four hours, before all eight assailants were killed, Khogyani said. Earlier, he said the attack had been carried out by four attackers and that there had been two explosions. He later said the heavily-armed militants were also carrying grenades.
“Two attackers were killed by their own car bomb blast. Six attackers were killed by security forces. Ten civilians and security forces were killed and 42 wounded,” Khogyani said. One of the injured employees, Qaisar, said the assault began around noon, when “a big boom shook our building.”
“I then saw at least two armed attackers entering the building. My friends ran to hide and I jumped from a window,” he told AFP from a Jalalabad hospital, where he was receiving treatment for a broken arm and leg.
Abdullah Raqibi, the finance department director, said all employees had been evacuated. “Unfortunately we lost three staff. They were killed in the blast that happened at the entrance,” he said.
The body of a policeman and eight civilians, including the three finance department employees, along with 36 wounded people had been brought to hospitals in Jalalabad, said Najibullah Kamawal, director of the city health department. The Islamic State group claimed it carried out the attack, in a statement from its Amaq propaganda agency.
“A suicide mission using a car bomb hit the finance ministry in Jalalabad,” said the statement circulated on encrypted messaging app Telegram.
Jalalabad is the capital of restive Nangarhar, which borders Pakistan. Some areas of the province are a stronghold of the Islamic State group, while Taliban fighters are also active there. The assault came days after suicide bombers and gunmen launched apparently coordinated attacks on two Kabul police stations Wednesday, killing at least 10 people.
April saw a series of attacks across the country targeting voter registration centers as Afghanistan gears up for long-delayed legislative elections due in October. The Taliban and I.S. have made clear their intention of disrupting the elections. Officials are concerned that a low voter turnout will undermine the credibility of the poll.
The Taliban recently launched their annual spring offensive, in an apparent rejection of a peace overture by the Afghan government. Operation Al Khandaq will target U.S. forces and “their intelligence agents” as well as their “internal supporters,” a Taliban statement said in late April.
But the Islamic State group has also stepped up attacks in recent months, particularly in Kabul.
Nine journalists, including AFP’s chief photographer in Kabul Shah Marai, were among 25 people killed in a double suicide blast claimed by I.S. in the capital on April 30. Kabul has become one of the deadliest places in the country for civilians as security forces struggle to keep the militants at bay following the withdrawal of NATO combat forces at the end of 2014.