Jalalabad: Eighteen people were killed and over 70 others were wounded, including police chiefs, Saturday in a Taliban attack on a bank in Jalalabad, eastern Afghanistan.
Police collecting their salaries were among the casualties including Alishah Paktyamwal, police chief of Nangarhar province where Jalalabad is located, plus his deputy.
The incident is third major attack in a week targeting police in Afghanistan, who alongside the army are due to take control of the war-torn country`s security from 2014, allowing most international troops to withdraw.
It happened when seven Taliban suicide bombers burst into a branch of Kabul Bank in the city and detonated their devices. There was also a hail of gunfire as the attack unfolded.
"Unfortunately, 18 of our countrymen were martyred and more than 70 injured," Gul Agha Shirzay, provincial governor of Nangarhar province, told a press conference.
He added that seven suicide attackers armed with guns and grenades carried out the attack.
The casualties included police, bank staff and civilians. One of the dead was a police officer as were 14 of the injured.
One man who was in the bank when the attack started, who gave his name as Ewazullah, told AFP that the gunmen were "killing indiscriminately".
"I was in the bank to withdraw some money when several armed men entered, fired some shots in the air and then told the people to gather to one side and then they started shooting," he said.
"They were killing indiscriminately, I was hiding in a corner."
Baz Mohammad Shirzad, regional health director for eastern Afghanistan, said he had asked for extra army security at the hospital where the injured were being treated amid fears of a possible fresh attack there.
Although the fighting is now over, a curfew has been imposed across the city by local police banning cars from the roads, a reporter said.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack.
"People were there doing business deals and to receive their salaries," he said. "This attack once again showed the cruel actions of the terrorists who do not want the people of Afghanistan to live in peace."
A medical source speaking on condition of anonymity said the police chief of Nangarhar province where Jalalabad is located, Alishah Paktyamwal, plus his deputy and the city`s criminal police chief were slightly hurt.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said the militant Islamists, who have been fighting international and government forces in Afghanistan for nearly ten years, were responsible.
Eastern Afghanistan is seen as volatile. Nangarhar province borders Pakistan, where the Taliban and other Islamist networks keep rear bases that Washington wants the Pakistani military to destroy to help suffocate the insurgency in Afghanistan.
A total of 12 people including police officers died in attacks in the region Friday, including nine in a car bombing near a district police headquarters in the eastern city of Khost.
Afghan security forces are frequently targets of attacks by the Taliban and the latest incident is the third significant one against them in Afghanistan in the space of a week.
Last Saturday, 19 people including 15 police and an intelligence agent died when suicide bombers armed with guns, grenades and car bombs targeted police headquarters in Afghanistan`s de facto southern capital, Kandahar.
The Afghan police and army are due to take responsibility for security in their own country from 2014, allowing the bulk of international troops to withdraw.
A limited withdrawal of foreign forces is expected to start from more stable provinces of Afghanistan from July.
There are currently around 140,000 international forces in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban.