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Suicide bombers attack government compound in southern Afghanistan, killing 19, official says
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) ' Three suicide attackers blew up vehicles packed with explosives Thursday at the gates of a government compound in southern Afghanistan, the opening salvo of an hours-long fight that left at least 19 people dead, authorities said.
The trio of nearly simultaneous attacks and subsequent gunbattle between other militants and Afghan security forces in Uruzgan province was the latest in an uptick of violence in the volatile south that has weakened the government's grip on the Taliban's heartland since the July 12 killing of President Hamid Karzai's powerful half brother in neighboring Kandahar.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assaults in the provincial capital of Tarin Kot, which targeted the governor's house, police headquarters and a third office used by Matiullah Khan, a powerbroker who runs a company that provides security for NATO supply convoys.
Afghan security forces responded to the scene and NATO coalition forces provided air support as fighting continued, said U.S. Air Force Capt. Justin Brockhoff, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi told The Associated Press that a total of six suicide bombers conducted the attacks.
Initial reports said seven explosions went off, but it was not clear what caused them all, provincial spokesman Milad Ahmad Mudasir said.
Dr. Khan Agha Miakhail, the director of the hospital in Tarin Kot, said the 19 killed included 10 children, a policeman and two women, and 37 other people were wounded.
The BBC said its Afghan reporter in the province, 25-year-old Ahmed Omed Khpulwak, was among those killed in the fighting. Khpulwak was in a local radio and television building when it came under attack, Peter Horrocks, director of BBC Global News, said in a statement.
The Taliban spokesman called the AP to express sadness over the death of the journalist and accused pro-government forces of killing him.
"He was not our target," Ahmadi said. "We were fighting the headquarters of the police."
The attack in Tarin Kot came a day after a suicide bomber with explosives tucked inside his turban killed the Kandahar mayor, Ghulam Haider Hamidi, deepening a power vacuum in the wake of the slaying of the president's half brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai.
In other violence Thursday, a NATO service member was killed in a roadside bombing in eastern Afghanistan, raising the total international death toll so far this month to 45, according to an AP tally.
Elsewhere in the south, an Afghan policeman and a civilian were killed Thursday when police were working to detonate roadside bombs in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, said Daud Ahmadi, the provincial spokesman.
Local residents tipped the police about the location of a mine. After that mine was successfully removed, a second one exploded, he said. Two other people, including a policeman, were injured in the explosion.
Associated Press writer Mirwais Khan in Kandahar and Deb Riechmann in Kabul contributed to this report.