Thirty-five people were killed in a Taliban assault on Kandahar described by rebels as a pre-emptive response to Western plans to eradicate them from the city.
A series of massive explosions rocked the southern city late Saturday in what appeared one of the biggest coordinated assaults by the militants since their insurgency began more than eight years ago.
The governor of Kandahar province said he had requested more troops to help secure the city from further attacks by the Taliban, who regard it as their spiritual centre.
Interior ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashery said the attackers aimed to blow open Kandahar’s prison and free its inmates, including militants.
He said the dead comprised 13 police officers and 22 civilians, and that another 57 people were injured.
The attack came as tens of thousands of extra troops are arriving in Afghanistan as part of a new counter-insurgency strategy aimed at concluding the US-led war on the Taliban.
The injured comprised 40 civilians and 17 policemen. Forty-two houses close to the city’s prison and its police headquarters were destroyed or badly damaged.
“Initial information shows that after the prison attack the enemy attacked locations and routes that end up at or are en route to the prison in an effort to prevent police from going and securing the prison,” Bashery said.