Taliban attack in eastern Afghanistan leaves 35 dead

McClatchy NewspapersMay 19, 2011 

KABUL, Afghanistan _ Taliban insurgents attacked a construction company in Afghanistan's Paktia province Thursday, killing 35 and wounding at least 20 others in the latest assault on U.S.-financed road projects that the insurgents believe threaten their access to refuges in the tribal regions of Pakistan.

The insurgents were armed with both small and heavy weapons when they struck a compound belonging to the Galaxy Sky construction company in the Wazi Zadran district at 2 a.m., according to an engineer for the company and a spokesman for the provincial governor.

Among the dead were construction workers, truck drivers, engineers and local security personnel. Eight insurgents were killed by security guards defending the compound, said Rohullah Samoon, the governor's spokesman.

Paktia is a remote province in southeastern Afghanistan that shares a border with Pakistan's tribal areas.

Galaxy Sky has a $10 million U.S.-funded contract to build an 18-mile-long highway from the provincial capital, Gardez, to Khost, the capital of neighboring Khost province, which also borders Pakistan.

It's the second time the company has been attacked by the Taliban, according to the company's owner, Noorullah Bidar. In 2009, a suicide bomber killed 20 of the company's workers, Bidar said.

In March of this year, a suicide bomber set off an explosives-laden truck in the compound of a construction company that was building a road in neighboring Paktika province, killing 20.

The Taliban claimed in a posting on their website that the compound was a security company base. It said 70 Taliban fighters took part in the attack and that 40 people had been killed. Twenty vehicles were also destroyed, the Taliban said.

Bidar, the Galaxy Sky owner, said survivors of the attack told him that the attackers included foreign fighters from Waziristan in Pakistan.

The attack added to what has been a deadly week in Afghanistan. On Wednesday, at least 28 people died in three separate incidents, including 13 people killed in a suicide attack on police trainers in Nangarhar province and 11 people who were shot when demonstrators attempted to storm a regional headquarters for the U.S.-led coalition in Takhar province. The demonstrators were protesting the deaths of four people in a U.S.-led raid who government officials said were civilians.

(Shukoor is a McClatchy special correspondent.)

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