KABUL // Two suicide bombers wearing police uniforms blew themselves up at an Afghan police headquarters today, killing at least 12 officers and wounding 16, officials said.
The blasts occurred within 20 minutes of each other in Paktika province, said Gen Daud Andarabi, the spokesman for the regional police commander in southeastern Afghanistan.
Nawab Waziry, the head of Paktika's provincial council, said both men wore police uniforms and made it through three security gates before reaching the main building on the police compound. One attacker denoted his explosives inside the police headquarters building, the other blew himself near the entrance, he said.
"There are lots of casualties," Waziry said. "The site was covered with blood."
The attack took place in one of the most violent areas of Afghanistan, where Nato and Afghan forces fight daily against the al Qa'eda linked Haqqani network. The area is about 150 kilometres south of Kabul and borders the Pakistani region of North Waziristan. It's controlled largely by the network, a Pakistan-based Taliban faction.
The border region has long been a refuge for Islamist extremists from around the world and has been the target of numerous drone strikes against the Taliban, al Qa'eda and the Haqqani network forces. Jalaluddin and Sirajuddin Haqqani, a former anti-Soviet commander and his son, are now battling American forces in eastern Afghanistan.
Elsewhere, Afghan and coalition forces killed at least 15 insurgents during an overnight search for a senior Taliban leader in remote eastern Afghanistan, Nato said today.
Security forces came under attack near a compound in Sherzad district of Nangarhar province last night, sparking a battle that killed the insurgents. Nato also used airstrikes in the operation. The alliance said insurgents were the only casualties.
Authorities were trying to determine whether the Taliban leader the troops were searching for was among those killed. The leader was not identified, but Nato said he helped foreign fighters, raised money and planned attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.
Mohammad Hassan, a district chief in the area, gave a slightly higher estimate of the deaths, saying at least 18 Taliban were killed in the fighting, including a local commander. He said the airstrikes hit during a Taliban meeting.
Security forces destroyed the weapons found on the insurgents, including rocket-propelled grenade launchers and hand grenades.
Also today, Nato said Afghan and coalition forces called in an airstrike to destroy a network of tunnels and underground bunkers in a Taliban-occupied area of Musa Qala district in Helmand province.
The strike came during a daylong sweep to clear Taliban cells in the province. Coalition forces searched more than 70 buildings in the area, discovering weapons caches that included detonation cords, 200 blasting caps for roadside bombs, a rocket-propelled grenade and a 18-kilogram bag of homemade explosives.
In Kandahar province yesterday, three Afghan civilians - believed to be ages 10, 15 and 20 - were killed in a roadside bomb in Zhari district, Nato said.