KABUL, Afghanistan — A bomb and gun assault on a bank in eastern Afghanistan Saturday killed at least nine and injured 70, officials said, as insurgents continued to demonstrate their ability to strike despite claims of progress from the U.S.-led military coalition here.
The attack, claimed by the Taliban, was aimed at police officers who were collecting their salaries from a branch of Kabul Bank in Jalalabad, the biggest city in the eastern section of the country and capital of Nangahar province, which borders Pakistan.
"Around noon time today two or three armed men entered the building of Kabul bank, started firing, then followed by explosions," said Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, spokesman for Nangarhar's governor.
Mohtarama Ameen, a member of provincial council, put the number of attackers at five to seven, although President Hamid Karzai's office said that three suicide attackers had entered the bank and blew themselves up.
Baz Mohammad Sherzad, public health director for Nangahar province, said that nine were killed and 70 injured. It appeared that most of the victims were civilians, though a chaotic standoff at the bank between terrorists and police continued late Saturday and could produce more casualties.
In a statement, Karzai's office said: "The terrorists mercilessly attacked our innocent people who came to get their salaries and do daily chores. This attack was once again an act against Islam. The terrorists do not want the people of Afghanistan to live in peace."
The U.S.-led coalition is trying to recruit and train Afghan forces to take over security responsibilities, and they've become a favorite target of the Taliban. While the U.S.-led international force is claiming progress against the insurgency, especially in the south, terrorist attacks continue.
The latest violence followed a suicide bombing Friday aimed at a police station in the southeast province of Khost that killed 11 people,10 of them civilians. Also Friday, an Afghan soldier shot and killed three German troops and wounded six in the northern province of Baghlan.
Taliban insurgents recently have targeted financial and commercial centers across the country. Last Monday a suicide attacker blew himself up in the entrance of Western-style shopping mall in Kabul that killed two security guards and injured two others. On January 28 a supermarket in Kabul where mostly foreigners shop was targeted by a suicide attacker who killed eight and injured seven others.
(Shukoor is a McClatchy special correspondent.)
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