Multiple blasts, gun battle in Afghan city

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Afghan security officials inspect a scene of militants attack on the finance department building in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, 13 May 2018. At least nine persons were killed and more than 40 injured after six militants attacked the government building. EPA/GHULAMULLAH HABIBI

Afghan security forces have battled for hours against a group of attackers who stormed a government building in the eastern city of Jalalabad after a co-ordinated assault that killed at least 15 people and wounded 42.

A car bomb was detonated at the entrance to the state accounts office on Sunday before a group of about six attackers armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades rushed the building, local officials said. There were multiple blasts as they fought off security forces in a gun battle that lasted much of the day.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, in a busy area of the city with many other official buildings nearby, including a school in which about 1000 girls were trapped as the fighting raged.

It was the latest in a series of high-profile attacks that have killed and wounded hundreds of civilians in Afghanistan this year and put heavy pressure on the Western-backed government of President Ashraf Ghani.

Most have been in capital city Kabul, but in January gunmen attacked an office of aid group Save the Children in Jalalabad, killing at least five people and wounding 25. That attack, also claimed by IS, followed much the same pattern as Sunday's incident.

After several hours of fighting that sent plumes of smoke rising into the sky above the accounts office, Attahullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said that Sunday's clash had ended with all the gunmen killed.

Public health officials said that at least 15 people, including a child, had been killed and 42 wounded. Witnesses said the explosions had caused carnage among passers-by.

"I saw two rickshaw drivers on the ground with their arms blown off," said Khan Mohammad, a local resident who saw the initial blasts and the start of the gun battle.

© RAW 2018