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In Afghanistan, insurgents launch deadly assault in Kandahar

The Taliban vows not to be deterred by the death of Osama bin Laden. Hours later, assailants target six government compounds in fierce attacks. At least eight people are killed, including six of the attackers.

May 07, 2011|By Laura King, Los Angeles Times
  • A 7-year-old girl is comforted by her father after she was shot in the back during insurgent attacks Saturday in Kandahar. The two are aboard a U.S. medevac helicopter.
A 7-year-old girl is comforted by her father after she was shot in the back… (Colin Perkel, Canadian…)

Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan — Insurgent gunmen and suicide bombers launched fierce simultaneous attacks Saturday against half a dozen government buildings in the troubled southern city of Kandahar, hours after the Taliban vowed to fight on in the wake of Osama bin Laden's death.

At least eight people were killed, including six of the attackers, and dozens of others were injured in the daylong assault, provincial officials said.

Gunfire and large explosions rattled through the city center for hours, witnesses said, as fighting raged outside the heavily fortified governor's compound, the mayor's office, the directorate of the main intelligence agency and several police installations.

The multipronged strike was reminiscent of a series of attacks by insurgents last month on government installations and officials in several parts of Afghanistan. Those included two high-profile strikes in Kandahar: the assassination of the provincial police chief and a massive jailbreak.

Kandahar, which the Taliban movement considers its spiritual home, has been a focus of months of efforts by North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces to establish security across Afghanistan's volatile south. The Western military last year claimed to have driven the Taliban out of key strongholds surrounding the city, but attacks such as this one point to a continuing insurgent presence.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for Saturday's assault, boasting in a statement that its fighters were "shaking up the entire city."

NATO's International Security Assistance Force depicted the attack as a failed bid to seize control of Kandahar. It said its troops had provided "perimeter security," with Afghan forces taking the lead in fighting off the assailants. Most of the insurgent dead appeared to be suicide bombers killed when they blew themselves up.

The strike in Kandahar was the first major Taliban attack since Bin Laden's death in a U.S. raid Monday in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad, and the first since the group announced the start of its spring offensive a week ago.

In a statement issued Friday evening, the Taliban leadership said the death of the Al Qaeda leader would not dampen its campaign to drive foreign troops out of Afghanistan. "The martyrdom of Sheik Osama bin Laden will give a new impetus to the current jihad against the invaders," it said.

The Taliban sheltered Al Qaeda before and after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but the agendas of the two organizations have diverged somewhat over the course of the nearly 10-year conflict. Bin Laden was not believed to have played a significant role in formulating Taliban military strategy.

laura.king@latimes.com

A special correspondent in Kandahar contributed to this report.

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