Afghan officials say at least 43 people were killed after militants stormed government offices in the eastern part of the capital Kabul, triggering an hours-long gun battle.
Health Ministry spokesman Waheed Majroh said another 10 people were wounded in the December 24 raid on a compound housing the Ministry of Public Works and other offices.
Militants stormed the compound after a suicide bomber detonated his explosives at the entrance, sending government workers running for their lives.
Interior Ministry deputy spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said about 350 workers were rescued after an eight-hour-long battle with the militants. He said three gunmen were killed by security forces.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, although similar incidents in the past have been blamed on the Taliban or Islamic State (IS) militants.
Basir Mujahid, a spokesman for the Kabul police, said members of the security forces were among the dead.
President Ashraf Ghani condemned the attack and praised security forces for “eliminating the terrorists.”
Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah blamed the Taliban, saying “their conduct is a disgrace to the very notion of peace,” referring to recent attempts to negotiate with the militant group.
The December 24 attack was the deadliest in Kabul since a suicide bomber blew himself up in the middle of a religious gathering last month, killing at least 55 people.
The incident was the 22nd attack in Kabul since January. In all, more than 500 people have been killed and more than 1,000 injured in attacks in the capital this year.
The incident comes just days after U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the Pentagon to prepare for the withdrawal of 7,000 American troops deployed in Afghanistan, about half of the U.S. contingent in the country.
Many observers warned that the partial withdrawal could further degrade security and jeopardize possible peace talks with the Taliban aimed at ending its 17-year insurgency.
U.S. forces make up the bulk of the NATO-led Resolute Support mission that is training and advising Afghan security forces in their fight against the Taliban and IS militants.
The U.S. military also has some 7,000 troops deployed in a separate U.S. counter-terrorism mission.
With reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, and dpa
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