Attack on UN compound fails

Afghan forces kill militants

Afghan security forces secured a position yesterday next to the wreckage of a vehicle used by a suicide bomber in an attack on a UN compound in Herat, Afghanistan. Afghan security forces secured a position yesterday next to the wreckage of a vehicle used by a suicide bomber in an attack on a UN compound in Herat, Afghanistan. (Reza Shirmohammadi/Associated Press)
By Deb Riechmann
Associated Press / October 24, 2010

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KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide car bomber and three armed militants wearing explosives vests and dressed as women attacked a United Nations compound yesterday in western Afghanistan, but Afghan security forces killed the attackers and no UN employees were harmed, officials said.

The attack began when four militants drove up to the UN compound in a car laden with explosives, said Dilawar Shah Dilawar, deputy police chief of Herat province. From the car, they fired a rocket toward the entrance, he said.

The militants tried unsuccessfully to blow up the gate with the rocket so they could drive the car inside the compound, he said. When that didn’t work, three of the militants got out of the car and the fourth blew up the vehicle. The explosion destroyed the gate, allowing the three to get inside.

“The three attackers were wearing police uniforms covered with burqas,’’ Dilawar said. “All of them had suicide vests and AK-47s.’’

Militants sometimes wear burqas or police uniforms as a disguise. The Interior Ministry denied that the attackers were wearing police uniforms.

Guards at the compound and Afghan police who responded to the site engaged in sporadic gunfights with the three attackers, who were killed by Afghan security forces. NATO forces also responded, a statement by the United Nations said.

“The attack did not disrupt the United Nations activities and no United Nations personnel were injured,’’ the statement said. “The United Nations will continue to maintain its presence and programs in Herat for the benefit of the population in need and in support of the Afghan authorities.’’

Two Afghan guards were wounded, the statement said.

The attack was similar to one in July in Kunduz in northern Afghanistan. Taliban suicide attackers used a car to blow a hole in the wall of a compound of a contractor for the US Agency for International Development in an attack that killed a Briton, a German, and two Afghans. Five men wearing suicide bomb vests poured into the compound and fought a five-hour gun battle with Afghan security forces before being killed.

In October 2009, Taliban militants attacked a guesthouse used by United Nations workers in central Kabul. Eight people were killed, including five foreigners working for the United Nations.

Separately, NATO forces killed two civilians, including a teenage boy, during a fight with insurgents yesterday in Wardak province in eastern Afghanistan, according to Mohammad Halim Fidai, the governor of the province. Fidai condemned the killings. The deaths prompted hundreds of residents to stage a demonstration that blocked a highway for nearly an hour.

The coalition could not confirm the two civilian deaths. NATO said that after insurgents attacked a patrol with a homemade bomb, the troops stopped to investigate the explosion and clear any other bombs in the area. After they stopped, they received fire from an unknown number of insurgents, the coalition said.

Also in the east, US special forces, NATO troops, and the Afghan army killed more than 10 insurgents and recovered four weapons caches during a four-day operation that ended Wednesday in Dara-i-Pech district of Kunar province, NATO said yesterday.

In southern Afghanistan, a suicide bomber on a motorbike blew himself up before reaching a checkpoint in Kandahar, killing two civilians and wounding two others, said police chief Sardar Mohammad Zazai.

Three other bombs — two in cars and one in a motorbike — were defused around the city after bombers left them on main roads and suspicious citizens called the police, said the provincial governor’s spokesman, Zelmai Ayubi.

NATO troops and Afghan forces began flooding into Kandahar in July as part of a push to wrest back control of the south from Taliban insurgents. Some pockets of control have been established in Kandahar and neighboring districts but roadside bombs are still extremely common.

A Danish soldier was killed in southern Helmand province after insurgents attacked his patrol yesterday, the Danish army said.

Also yesterday, a photographer for The New York Times was seriously injured when he stepped on a mine in Kandahar province.

Joao Silva, 44, suffered leg injuries from the blast, which occurred while he was accompanying American soldiers on patrol in the Arghandab district. top stories on Twitter

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