| GEO World|
| 9 killed in Afghanistan attacks|
| Updated at: 0743 PST, Wednesday, May 13, 2009|
KABUL: Disguised in Afghan Army uniforms and a burqa, Taliban fighters carried out coordinated attacks in eastern Afghanistan Tuesday, leaving at least nine people dead after a daylong hostage siege and a gun battle with American forces, government officials said.
The assault, which included a bombing outside the governorís office in Khost Province, was one of a number of increasingly audacious attacks that seemed intended to underscore the vulnerability of the government by hitting its buildings directly.
It was also part of an intensified campaign by the Taliban before the arrival of more than 20,000 new American forces, and it came a day after President Obama replaced the commander of forces in Afghanistan, hoping to place more emphasis on counterinsurgency operations.
On Tuesday, the insurgents employed a method that has by now become a Taliban signature: waves of attackers using suicide vests, car bombs and other weapons to storm buildings and take hostages, fighting until they blow themselves up or are killed.
The attacks in Khost city, the provincial capital, came so quickly and sowed such chaos that even late in the day Afghan and American officials gave contradictory accounts of the sequence of events and the numbers of people killed.
The Interior Ministry said the assaults began about 10 a.m., when a suicide car bomb exploded at the gate of the governorís office, killing two policemen and two other guards. The militants apparently tried to enter the building and were fought back.
Shortly afterward, the ministry said, a group of nine suicide attackers stormed a nearby municipal building. Four blew themselves up in a battle with security guards, while 5 others made their way into the building and took about 20 people hostage. The attackers were eventually killed at the end of a long standoff, it said.
Wazir Padshah, a spokesman for the provincial police chief, said 20 hostages had been freed. But he gave a slightly different version of events, saying the militants had first attacked the municipal building, followed by the governorís office 10 minutes later. The Taliban also attacked a police station but were rebuffed, he said.