2 killed as suicide bombers storm television station

KABUL. – Suicide bombers stormed the state TV station in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad yesterday, triggering clashes that killed at least two people.The attack was claimed by the Islamic State group.

The attack began with an explosion followed by a gun battle with Afghan security forces, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish.

As gunfire and explosions ripped the premises of local RTA (Radio Television Afghanistan) offices, journalists scrambled to leave the building and some were trapped as the battle continued to rage. At least 14 wounded people were taken to a local hospital, according to Afghan medical officials.

Yesterday’s attack was claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group in a message posted on the Telegram messaging service by Amaq, the news agency linked to the jihadist group.

The attack on the Jalalabad offices of RTA highlights the growing dangers confronting Afghan journalists as the traditional Afghan spring fighting season rages.

“Four attackers entered the RTA building this morning. Two blew themselves up and two others are still resisting,” government spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told AFP. He had earlier said there were three attackers.

“At least two civilians have been killed and 14 others wounded so far,” Kohgyani said, with a health worker telling AFP that many of those brought to hospital suffered gunshot wounds.

An RTA photographer said he fled the building as soon as the gunfight erupted, but many of his colleagues were still stuck inside.

IS insurgents are active in Nangarhar province, of which Jalalabad is the capital. The US military last month dropped the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb – dubbed the “Mother Of All Bombs” – on IS positions in Nangarhar, killing dozens of jihadists.

The bombing triggered global shock waves, with some condemning the use of Afghanistan as what they called a testing ground for the weapon, and against a militant group that is not considered as big a threat as the resurgent Taliban.

According to the US Forces-Afghanistan, defections and recent battlefield losses have reduced the local IS presence from a peak of as many as 3,000 fighters to a maximum of 800.

The Pentagon reportedly asked the White House to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan to break the deadlocked fight against the Taliban.

US troops in Afghanistan number about 8 400 today, and there are another 5 000 from NATO allies, who also mainly serve in an advisory capacity – a far cry from the US presence of more than 100 000 six years ago.

Yesterday’s attack marks the latest militant assault on an Afghan media organisation. – France24/AP/AFP.

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