Eighteen dead in Taliban attack on Afghan bank

February 20, 2011 - 0:0

JALALABAD (AFP) – Eighteen people were killed and over 70 wounded in an attack on a bank in Jalalabad, east Afghanistan Saturday, provincial governor Gul Agha Shirzay said, doubling the previous death toll.

“Unfortunately 18 of our countrymen were martyred and more than 70 injured,” said Shirzay, governor of Nangarhar province. He added that seven suicide attackers armed with guns and grenades carried out the attack.
Police collecting their salaries were among the dead and Alishah Paktyamwal, police chief of Nangarhar province where Jalalabad is located, plus his deputy were wounded in the attack.
The incident is the latest to target 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 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.
Baz Mohammad Shirzad, regional health director for eastern Afghanistan, told reporters the casualties included police, bank staff and civilians, he said.
Shirzad added that he had also asked the Afghan army and international troops to provide extra security at the hospital amid fears of a possible fresh attack there.
Although the fighting is now over, a curfew in the city has been imposed by local police which bans cars from driving around, an AFP reporter said.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack, saying: “People were there doing business deals and to receive their salaries. 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.
The source added that other police officers were killed in the attack.
An AFP reporter at the scene said he had heard gunshots and five explosions as the attack unfolded.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said the militant Islamists, who have been fighting international and government forces in Afghanistan for nearly ten years, were responsible.
“Three suicide bombers have entered the Kabul Bank branch in Jalalabad in the section where they pay the army and police salaries. Big casualties have been inflicted,” he said.
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.