Jalalabad, Jul 31: Gunmen today stormed an Afghan government office in Jalalabad during a meeting with foreign aid agencies, killing at least six people in the latest of a series of assaults in the eastern city. On the other side of the country a roadside bomb apparently intended for security forces hit a passenger bus and killed 11 people, as civilians once again bear the brunt of violence in Afghanistan. The attack in Jalalabad targted the compound of the refugees and repatriations department. It ended after more than five hours of intense fighting between militants and security forces, said Attaullah Khogyani, spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province.
At least six people were killed and 14 wounded, Khogyani said, but he warned the toll could rise as security forces searched the building. As the attack began with multiple explosions, local representatives of foreign donors and agencies were meeting department employees inside the building.
"All the partner agency representatives attending the meeting were Afghans and those who were stuck inside, including the director of the refugees and repatriations department, were rescued," Khogyani said. Several people had been taken hostage by the attackers, said Zabiullah Zmarary, a provincial council member.
"I saw a black Corolla car drop three armed men at the gate of the refugees and repatriations department," a witness told AFP. At least one of the men blew himself up at the gate and two others entered the building, the witness said. Khogyani said the two attackers were killed. Security forces swarmed into the area, and a plume of thick black smoke rose into the sky above the compound. The Taliban denied involvement in the incident in a WhatsApp message sent to journalists. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which comes three days after militants raided a midwife training centre in Jalalabad.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for Saturday's attack, which left at least three people dead and several wounded. Jalalabad has been the scene of multiple attacks in recent months that have killed dozens, as US and Afghan forces continue offensives against militants. In the western province of Farah today the bomb which hit the bus killed at least 11 people and wounded 31.
"It was a bomb planted by the Taliban to hit security forces but... it got a passenger bus," Farah provincial police spokesman Muhibullah Muhib told AFP. There was no immediate confirmation from the Taliban that they were responsible. In a separate incident, 22 passengers travelling on a Kabul-bound bus in the eastern province of Paktia were kidnapped by gunmen yesterday night. Officials blamed the Taliban for both incidents.
Most of the attacks in Jalalabad have been claimed by IS, which has a relatively small but potent presence in Afghanistan, mainly in the east and north. It is not clear why the militants targeted the refugees and repatriations department, but government buildings are frequently hit. On July 11 gunmen raided an education department compound in Jalalabad, sparking an hours-long battle with security forces.
At least 11 people were killed in that attack. All were employees of the education department branch and included the director. A suicide bombing claimed by IS on a crowd of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus in Jalalabad on July 1 killed 19 people and wounded 21. IS emerged in Afghanistan in 2014 and quickly established a stronghold in Nangarhar, which borders Pakistan. Intensified aerial and ground operations against the militants have failed to dislodge them.