Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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March 30, 2014

Afghan official: Militants in standoff killed

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan police killed all five militants who attacked the election commission headquarters in Kabul on Saturday with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, ending a four-hour standoff, according to a top government official.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault. It is the latest in a series of high-profile attacks by the Islamic militant movement as it steps up a campaign of violence to disrupt presidential elections due to be held in a week.

Deputy Interior Minister Mohammed Ayub Solangi said the attackers wore the all-encompassing burqa to sneak unnoticed into a building that looked on to the heavily fortified Independent Election Commission headquarters on the eastern edge of the capital.

They were never able to breach the heavily defended compound housing the commission itself, though two warehouses were hit and caught on fire. Two policemen were wounded in the firefight.

None of the dozens of employees and other people who had been hiding inside the election commission headquarters was injured, Solangi said.

The compound is located near the Kabul International Airport. It was shut for more than two hours and flights were diverted out of concern for the safety passengers on planes that must fly low over the site of the standoff to land.

Noor Mohammed Noor, a spokesman for the election commission, said security already had been increased around the compound because an attack had been widely expected. He said the IEC leadership was away when the assault began, and that all IEC staff members were safe.

Unable to penetrate the heavily defended commission headquarters, the attackers instead occupied a neighboring house about 800 meters (yards) away that is inside a walled-off compound guarded by a series of watch towers and checkpoints.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack but described what would have been a much more ambitious assault. He said a suicide bomber and gunmen had stormed the IEC compound while the IEC and election observers, including foreigners, were holding a meeting.

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