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Taliban attack intel office in eastern Afghanistan
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- A suicide bomber in a truck blew himself up at an intelligence headquarters in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, killing at least two people and setting off an intense firefight with security forces, officials said.
After the bombing outside the headquarters of the National Directorate of Security in Jalalabad, militants battled with security forces for an hour before authorities were able to put down the attack, said Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, a spokesman for the Nangarhar governor.
He would not say how many attackers were involved or whether they were all killed or some escaped. He said authorities were searching the grounds.
Abdulzai put the death toll at two and said they were both from the NDS, but Najibullah Kamawal, the top provincial health official, said six bodies had been brought to the hospital.
Conflicting death tolls are common in the immediate aftermath of such bombings.
Kamawal said 45 people were wounded. The powerful explosion shook the entire neighborhood, breaking nearby windows and startling residents.
"It was early morning and we were sleeping at home. A strong explosion happened followed by firing. When I came out of my room I was covered with dust, and my kids and I got injured from broken windows," said Ahmad Shah.
A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabihullah Mujahid, claimed responsibility for the attack in a telephone call to The Associated Press.
Jalalabad is one of Afghanistan's biggest cities, sitting on a major trade route into neighboring Pakistan. But the city is also located in one of the country's most troubled regions.
Taliban militants are easily able to hide in the forbidding, mountainous terrain, and often cross back and forth into neighboring Pakistan. Afghan security officials have repeatedly accused Pakistan of giving sanctuary to militants that attack Afghanistan, something Pakistan denies.
In May, militants attacked the provincial justice building in Jalalabad, killing at least five civilians before authorities were able to retake the building. Militants in March attacked a police station in Jalalabad, sparking a four-hour battle with police that ended with eleven people dead.
This is the first year that Afghan security forces have operated largely on their own, without U.S. or international forces. The NATO-led security force is scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of the year, although a small number of U.S. and international troops may stay behind to advise and assist the Afghan forces. But that is contingent on Afghanistan signing a security arrangement with the U.S., something President Hamid Karzai has so far refused to do.
Both of the men vying to replace him in the country's presidential election have said they will sign the agreement, but that has been stalled as the winner from the disputed vote has still not been named.
Meanwhile, gunmen killed nine laborers on their way to the Iranian border early Saturday morning, said a provincial police chief, Abdul Razaq Yaquby. He said the men were traveling through the western Farah province when the gunmen stopped their vehicle and killed them.
Four other men were wounded, he said. Yaquby said the men were members of the Baluch tribe, and authorities suspect they were killed by Taliban gunmen who have a longstanding enmity with the Baluch in that region. But no arrests have been made, and the region where the incident occurred is populated by criminal gangs and smugglers.
Associated Press writer Rebecca Santana contributed to this report.