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Taliban attack Afghan governor s office

KANDAHAR, May 7 – Taliban militants armed with guns and rocket-propelled grenades on Saturday attacked the office of the governor of Afghanistan\’s Kandahar province, with casualties reported.

"Small-arms fire is still going on. Two RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) have been fired onto the building so far. The northern and eastern sides of the compound are under direct attack," provincial spokesman Zalmay Ayubi told AFP.

He added: "We have reports of people injured, but no word on fatal casualties so far."

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault.

Spokesman Yusuf Ahmadi said it was still unfolding and claimed that "heavy casualties have been inflicted on the enemy".

The militia had warned on Friday that this week\’s killing of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by US forces in Pakistan would give "a new impetus" to their fight against foreign and Afghan forces.

However Ahmadi did not mention bin Laden\’s death in the context of the Kandahar attack in his comments to AFP.

An AFP reporter at the scene said the assault against the heavily guarded compound was launched from a nearby building which the attackers had ordered shopkeepers to leave shortly before the violence began.

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There are around 130,000 international troops in Afghanistan, two-thirds of them from the United States, battling the Taliban and other insurgents.

Limited withdrawals from seven relatively peaceful areas, only one of which is in southern Afghanistan, are due to start in July ahead of the planned end of foreign combat operations in 2014.

Foreign forces claim that Kandahar and the surrounding area are now safer following months of intense fighting to clear traditional Taliban strongholds.

But government officials and other targets are still frequently targeted by militants in the city, seen as the birthplace of the Taliban and the de facto capital of southern Afghanistan.

Nearly 500 Taliban prisoners escaped from Kandahar\’s prison last month through a huge tunnel in a major embarrassment for the authorities.

Also in April, Kandahar\’s police chief was killed by an attacker in a police uniform, while six Afghan security force personnel were killed by a Taliban bomb hidden in an ambulance at a police centre.

And in February, 19 people including 15 police and an intelligence agent were killed in a series of assaults by the Taliban focused on the city\’s police headquarters.

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