The Taliban struck a government compound in eastern Afghanistan early on Thursday in an attack that included two suicide truck bombings and left at least 12 people dead, including eight off-duty policemen asleep in their quarters nearby, officials said.
The assailants first set off the two massive truck bombs outside the government compound in the provincial capital of Ghazni, followed by a full frontal assault by over a dozen gunmen.
The assault triggered a gunbattle with the policemen and security forces at the compound and officials said all 13 assailants were subsequently killed. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a text message sent to the media.
The attack comes as Afghanistan remains embroiled in a political crisis with the country's April presidential election still without a clear winner. Two candidates vying to succeed President Hamed Karzai pulled their observers out of a ballot audit meant to determine the winner of a June runoff.
The attack also came as a NATO summit was to begin in Wales, where alliance leaders are to discuss the final stages of the 13-year Afghan war.
All foreign combat troops are expected to leave Afghanistan by the end of the year. The U.S. continues to draw down its forces in the country from a high of around 100,000 three years ago to a current force of 30,000. The U.S. plans to lower troop numbers down to about 10,000.
In a statement issued on the eve of the NATO summit, the Taliban needled the international community over Afghanistan's election crisis.
"Those elections that the foreigners considered the fruition of their 13-year-old occupation is now seen as a historical shame," the group said. "It was planned that Afghanistan's next leader would participate in the Wales Summit. Now their plans have come to naught."
Separate attack kills coalition service member
The truck bombs in Ghazni blew out many windows across the city, and left about 80 people hurt, mostly from flying glass, said Gov. Musa Khan Akbarzada. He said one truck carved a 10-meter (yard) hole into the ground.
According to Asadullha Ensafi, the deputy police chief, the attack apparently targeted the local office of domestic intelligence, which is part of the compound.
One of the truck bombs killed eight off-duty police officers who were asleep in their housing unit near the site, said Khan Pacha Shirzad, a police commander. Three security forces and one civilian were also killed, said Zia Gul Esfandi, the director of the public health department.
In other developments, the U.S.-led international military coalition said one of its service members was killed in an attack Thursday in eastern Afghanistan.
NATO spokesman Maj. Paul Greenberg said he could not specify where the service member died but he said he did not believe there were any coalition troops at the Ghazni government compound during the Taliban assault.