Afghan police thwart would-be suicide squad: Govt



Kabul: Afghan security forces shot dead five men wearing suicide vests and armed with guns as they tried to storm government buildings and a bazaar in eastern Afghanistan on Monday, the government said.

Militants in Afghanistan's long insurgency have increasingly mounted coordinated suicide bomb attacks in their attempt to destabilise the Western-backed government.

In the most recent attack, 35 people including police officers and civilians were killed on Saturday in multiple suicide bomb attacks in Kandahar, the southern birthplace of the Taliban movement.

Monday's thwarted attack in the town of Barmal, on the Pakistan border in Paktika province, appeared to be a similarly coordinated attempt to reach several targets at once, the Interior Ministry said.

"The suicide bombers, who were also armed with different types of guns... were killed before reaching their targets," it said in a statement.

Three of the bombers were shot dead "after they were identified" and two others briefly exchanged fire with police before they were killed, it said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for Saturday's attack in Kandahar, saying it was a pre-emptive response to plans led by the US military to take the war to the militants in Kandahar.

A massive campaign is currently under way in neighbouring Helmand province which will serve as a template for the counter-insurgency strategy that is set to move to Kandahar in coming months, military planners say.

The Taliban have been waging an insurgency against Afghanistan's government since their own regime was overthrown in a 2001 US-led invasion.

There are about 120,000 foreign NATO and US troops stationed in Afghanistan to help Kabul defeat the Taliban.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force said Monday that a soldier had been killed in a vehicle accident on Sunday, bringing to 123 the number of foreign troops who have died in the country this year, according to a tally based on that kept by the icasualties.org website.

Bureau Report