A major Taliban attack on the offices of Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency has killed at least 11 security personnel and wounded dozens of others, mostly civilians.
A group of militants detonated a car bomb at the entrance of the National Security Directorate (NDS) offices in Aybak, the capital of the northern province of Samangan, and then stormed the building.
Provincial Governor Abdul Latif Ibrahimi told RFE/RL that the ensuing hours-long gunbattle ended with the death of all four attackers.
Ibrahimi said all 11 government personnel killed in the clashes were members of the NDS.
He said 63 people, mostly civilians, were wounded in the attack.
Mohammad Hashim Sarwari, deputy chief for the provincial council, said a suicide car bomber targeted the NDS office and the blast was a signal for other Taliban fighters to storm the building.
The Taliban routinely stages such complex attacks on government targets in urban centers.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, claimed both the bombing and the subsequent attack.
The attack came as the Taliban intensified attacks in northern Afghanistan.
On July 12, the Taliban attacked checkpoints in northern Kunduz Province, killing at least 14 members of the Afghan security forces, according to Esmatullah Muradi, a spokesman for the provincial governor.
Overnight, local officials also accused the Taliban of attacking several security checkpoints, killing seven personnel in the northeastern province of Badakhshan and four in the northern province of Parwan.
A peace deal signed by the Taliban and the United States in February calls for direct negotiations between the militant group and the Western-backed government in Kabul aimed at putting an end to the nearly two-decade-old war in Afghanistan.
The Taliban and government forces have been exchanging accusations over a recent surge in attacks across Afghanistan -- even as efforts continue to try and bring about the start of direct peace talks between Kabul and the militants.
Mujahid on July 12 accused the government of delaying the start of talks, saying the militant group was "left with no option but to continue the war."
President Ashraf Ghani warned on July 6 that the spike in violence posed a "serious" threat to the peace process with the Taliban.
With reporting by Reuters, dpa, AP, and AFP