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Taliban attack Afghan election commission compound ahead of vote

By Qadir Sediqi and Ben Brumfield, CNN
updated 6:37 AM EDT, Mon March 31, 2014
Smoke rises from the compound of the Afghan election commission after an attack by insurgents on Saturday.
Smoke rises from the compound of the Afghan election commission after an attack by insurgents on Saturday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Afghan security forces battled the militants for about five hours
  • NEW: Deputy minister says all five attackers killed, two people injured
  • Taliban have vowed to disrupt April elections
  • It is the second attack on the election commission this week

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Taliban insurgents attacked Afghanistan's election commission headquarters in Kabul on Saturday, staff and a government official said, a week before the April 5 presidential election.

Afghan security forces battled the militants for about five hours. Gen. Mohammad Ayoub Salangi, the deputy interior minister, said all five attackers were killed and two people were injured.

According to Salangi, the five insurgents wore women's burqas when they entered a building close to the Independent Election Commission compound at around 12:30 p.m. local time. He said they used small guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

Earlier, a commission employee had told CNN that two explosions had erupted outside the commission's compound. Following the blasts, militants took up combat positions outside the compound and engaged in a firefight with Afghan security forces, Mohammad Dawran said.

In a statement, a Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack.

Afghanistan's violent vote

Spate of assaults

A commission source told CNN rocket-propelled grenades hit two warehouses inside the commission compound.

The source, who declined to be named, said both warehouses had caught fire when they were hit.

Saturday's attack, which forced the closure of Kabul's airport for hours, follows a spate of recent assaults in the capital in the run-up to national elections in April 5. The Taliban have vowed to disrupt the elections to replace outgoing President Hamid Karzai and to punish anyone involved in them.

On Friday, five militants set off a car bomb at a guesthouse used by foreigners and then held people as hostages until police killed one of the militants, and the other four blew themselves up. A girl was killed in the attack.

On Tuesday, militants stormed an election commission office in Kabul, leading to a five-hour gunbattle with Afghan security services. Five people were killed -- two police officers, two election commission workers and a provincial council candidate.

The Taliban also claimed responsibility for both of those attacks.

5 militants dead, ending Kabul hostage situation

CNN's Qadir Sediqi reported in Kabul, and CNN's Ben Brumfield wrote in Atlanta; CNN's Anna Coren and Marie-Louise Gumuchian contributed to this report

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