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Death toll from Afghanistan bank bombing hits 35

February 20, 2011

Smoke rises from the area where seven Taliban suicide bombers burst into a branch of Kabul Bank and detonated their devices on February 19, 2011 in Jalalabad. Thirty-five people were killed and 70 others wounded, including police chiefs, in an attack claimed by the Taliban on a bank in Jalalabad, eastern Afghanistan. The incident is the latest in a string targeting police in Afghanistan, who alongside the army are due to take control of security from 2014, allowing most international troops to withdraw. – AFP Photo

JALALABAD: The death toll from a Taliban attack on a bank in eastern Afghanistan has risen to 35, officials said Sunday, with more than 70 others injured.

Seven Taliban suicide bombers armed with machine guns and grenades stormed a branch of Kabul Bank Saturday morning in Jalalabad city initiating a several hour stand off with security forces before detonating their devices.

“Around 35 people were killed and another 70 were wounded in yesterday’s attack on Kabul Bank,” provincial spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzai told AFP.

The death toll had previously been given as 18.

Police collecting their salaries were among the casualties. The deputy provincial police chief and provincial criminal investigation police chief were among the wounded, Abdulzai said.

The two senior officers were taken to Bagram, the main base for US-led forces in Afghanistan, for treatment, he said.

The incident was the third major attack in a week targeting police in Afghanistan, who alongside the army are due to take control of the war-torn country's security from 2014, allowing most international troops to withdraw.

Officials refused to give a breakdown of the casualties but said they included policemen, bank staff and civilians.

One man who was in the bank when the attack started, who gave his name as Ewazullah, told AFP that the gunmen were “killing indiscriminately”.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said the militant Islamists, who have been fighting international and government forces in Afghanistan for nearly ten years, were responsible.

Jalalabad is part of Nangarhar province, which borders Pakistan, where the Taliban and other Islamist networks keep rear bases that Washington wants the Pakistani military to destroy to help suffocate the insurgency in Afghanistan.

A limited withdrawal of foreign forces is expected to start from more stable provinces of Afghanistan from July.

There are currently around 140,000 international forces in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban.