World and Nation

Attack in Kandahar breaks
rare respite

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Insurgents armed with guns and rocket-propelled grenades attacked a small NATO base here Thursday, breaking an unusual period of calm in this volatile city and setting off a standoff between the attackers and coalition and Afghan forces that was continuing late into the evening.

One Afghan interpreter was killed and a U.S. civilian contractor and two Afghan security guards were injured, NATO said in a statement. Five coalition troops received minor wounds, NATO said.

The attack began around 2:45 p.m. when an unknown number of gunmen took positions in an empty three-story building about a quarter mile from the military outpost and began firing toward the base, said Gen. Abdul Raziq, police chief of Kandahar province. The attack on the base ended about three hours later, a NATO spokesman said, but the attackers remained holed up in the building. The Taliban took responsibility for the attack.

The base, located inside the city, houses the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team, one of dozens of such outposts where civilian and military personnel lead efforts to build roads and schools and to assist local governments to become more effective. Militants attacked a similar outpost in Panjshir province this month, killing two Afghan civilians and wounding two Afghan security guards.

As Afghan and coalition forces surrounded the building, the police found a minivan and a motorcycle nearby laden with explosives, Raziq said.

“The plan was when security forces searched the building where the attackers took shelter, they would detonate the bombs,” Raziq said.

A second attack took place about the same time when a suicide bomber in a car filled with explosives detonated his vehicle outside a NATO combat outpost in the district of Panjwayi southwest of the city. No coalition or Afghan forces were killed in the attack, said Master Sgt. Christopher DeWitt of the Air Force, a NATO spokesman in Kabul.

Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city, has been one of the most dangerous urban areas in the country. A string of assassinations through the summer jolted the city, targeting high level officials, including Ahmed Wali Karzai, President Hamid Karzai’s half brother and the influential leader of the Kandahar provincial council, as well as ordinary civil servants and tribal elders.

But the city had been relatively peaceful in recent weeks. On Thursday, Afghan and coalition forces were still attempting to clear the building late into the evening.