Taliban storm strategic Afghan city

A U.S. soldier on patrol in Khost province in February 2009.
Taliban militants attacked a municipal building in the city of Khost in eastern Afghanistan Tuesday, fighting pitched battles with U.S. forces and taking hostages, U.S. and local officials said.

A U.S. military spokesman said the city — a hotbed of Taliban activity near the Pakistan border — is not considered secure as reports of running battles, kidnappings and fatalities surface. The fighting began when U.S. forces initially responded to a suicide bomber at a government compound in the city and came under heavy attack, the U.S. military spokesman said. Officials in Khost told CNN that insurgents attacked the municipal building, and the police chief there said attackers killed two police officers, two security guards and two civilians. See location of fighting A Taliban spokesman in Afghanistan told CNN 30 Taliban fighters were involved in the attack, and said they were suicide bombers wearing explosive vests. Eight Taliban fighters died in the fighting.

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The U.S. military spokesman said U.S. troops killed several militants but had to fall back. He said a U.S. quick reaction force, backed by helicopters, from a nearby base was called to join ground troops entering the city. The spokesman said additional suicide bombers then entered government buildings, killing an unknown number of additional Afghans.

Said Mohammad, chief of staff of the Khost police Security Commander told CNN that armed Taliban are in the basement of the Khost municipality building. “I don’t know about the exact number of the Taliban involved in this attack, but I think there are six to seven Taliban who are still alive and show resistance.” These Taliban have taken some students and municipality staff as hostages.”