Gun­men storm court com­plex in Afghanistan

Five peo­ple killed in attack

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Gun­men dressed in mil­i­tary uni­forms stormed a court com­plex in the north­ern Afghan city of Mazari-Sharif on Thurs­day, of­fi­cials said, adding that the as­sailants were still in­side the build­ing.

Loud ex­plo­sions and gun­fire rang out as Afghan se­cu­rity forces re­tal­i­ated against the as­sault that comes just be­fore the start of the Tal­iban's tra­di­tional spring of­fen­sive.

"Our ini­tial in­for­ma­tion shows that armed men en­tered the pro­vin­cial Ap­peals Court in Mazar-iSharif to­day," Ab­dul Raziq Qaderi, act­ing po­lice chief of Balkh prov­ince, told AFP.

"Gun­men ex­changed fire with Afghan se­cu­rity forces and the attack is on­go­ing," he added.

There were no im­me­di­ate re­ports of fa­tal­i­ties but at least nine wounded peo­ple were brought to the pro­vin­cial public hos­pi­tal.

"Most of the nine wounded peo­ple ... are pros­e­cu­tors and court staff," Asadul­lah Shar­ifi, act­ing head of the hos­pi­tal, told AFP.

The attack comes a day af­ter an Amer­i­can sol­dier was killed in a fire­fight be­tween U.S. and Afghan troops in eastern Afghanistan, the first ap­par­ent in­sider attack since Wash­ing­ton an­nounced a de­lay in troop with­drawals from the coun­try.

There was no im­me­di­ately claim of re­spon­si­bil­ity for Thurs­day's as­sault, which un­der­scores Afghanistan's frag­ile se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion as U.S.-led for­eign troops pull back from the front­lines af­ter a 13-year war against the Tal­iban.

NATO's com­bat mission for­mally ended in De­cem­ber but a small fol­low-up for­eign force has stayed on to train and sup­port the lo­cal se­cu­rity forces.

U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama last month reversed plans to shrink the U.S. force in Afghanistan this year by nearly half, an over­ture to the coun­try's new re­form-minded leader, Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani.

Host­ing Ghani at the White House for their first pres­i­den­tial head-to-head, Obama agreed to keep the cur­rent level of 9,800 U.S. troops un­til the end of 2015.

The Tal­iban, who have waged a deadly in­sur­gency since they were ousted from power in late 2001, warned that the an­nounce­ment would dam­age any prospects of peace talks as they vowed to con- tinue fight­ing.

Tal­iban in­sur­gents have al­ready stepped up sui­cide at­tacks on gov­ern­ment tar­gets fol­low­ing an Afghan army of­fen­sive which be­gan in south­ern Hel­mand prov­ince more than two months ago.

The uptick in at­tacks has taken a heavy toll on or­di­nary Afghans.

The num­ber of civil­ians killed and wounded in Afghanistan jumped 22 per­cent in 2014, a re­cent U.N. re­port said, as NATO troops with­drew from com­bat.

The United Na­tions As­sis­tance Mission in Afghanistan at­trib­uted the rise to an in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion in ground fight­ing, re­sult­ing in a to­tal of 10,548 civil­ian ca­su­al­ties last year.

Afghan forces are cur­rently brac­ing for what is ex­pected to be a bloody sum­mer push by the Tal­iban and the gov­ern­ment has also raised the omi­nous prospect of the Is­lamic State mak­ing in­roads into Afghanistan.

AP

A mem­ber of Afghan se­cu­rity forces helps a woman af­ter gun­men stormed a gov­ern­ment com­pound in Mazar-e-sharif, north of Kabul, Afghanistan on Thurs­day, April 9.

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