Suicide bomb targets government office in east Afghanistan

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Afghanistan

Afghan security forces arrive near the site of a suicide bombing and gun battle as militants attempted to storm a government office, in Jalalabad, the provincial capital of eastern Afghanistan, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. The violence comes as Afghanistan prepares for presidential elections on Sept. 28, a vote the Taliban vehemently oppose. (AP Photo)wld

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Militants in Afghanistan attempted to storm a government office in an eastern provincial capital on Monday, with a suicide bombing sparking a running gunbattle with security forces, Afghan officials said.

The attack in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province, comes a day after the Taliban launched two separate suicide attacks — one targeting President Ashraf Ghani's election rally in a northern province and another in the heart of the Afghan capital. Those attacks killed at least 48 people and wounding scores more, in the deadliest single day since a peace agreement with Taliban insurgents was declared dead.

Fighting was still ongoing as of Wednesday evening, said Attahullah Khogyani, spokesman for Nangarhar's governor.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for Wednesday's attack, but both the Taliban and the Islamic State group are active in eastern Afghanistan.

At least 12 wounded people, including a woman and a young child, were taken to hospitals, said Gulzada Snagar, a spokesman for the province's public health department.

The violence comes as Afghanistan prepares for presidential elections on Sept. 28, a vote the Taliban vehemently oppose. The insurgent group has warned Afghans not to vote in the election and said their fighters would target election campaigns as well as polling stations.

Khogyani said Afghan security forces had rescued at least ten government employees and other civilians from inside the center, which issues electronic national IDs, since the attack began in the early afternoon.

Dozens more civilians, including women and children, were still trapped inside the building, said a provincial official who spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.

Two attackers had been killed by forces so far, according to Nasrat Rahimi, spokesman for the interior ministry.