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Three suspected Taliban bank attackers killed in Kabul encounter

Last updated on: August 19, 2009 13:51 IST

Afghan police have killed at least three gunmen who stormed a bank building in Kabul on Wednesday morning.

A report by The Times said the police is conducting a search of the premises after engaging the attackers in brief gun battle inside the building.The building is just a few hundred metres from the presidential palace compound where President Hamid Karzai lives.

A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack which followed a suicide car bombing on Thursday that killed eight people and wounded more than 50 in Kabul. He also claimed that 20 armed suicide attackers wearing explosive vests had entered Kabul earlier on Wednesday morning.

Police initially said the attack might have been a robbery gone wrong, but later confirmed that it was carried out by the Taliban. "We have killed three of the attackers inside the bank," The Times quoted Sayed Abdul Ghafar Sayedzada, the Kabul criminal investigation police chief, as saying, and added that "They were Taliban."

The Taliban has pledged to disrupt Thursday's election by attacking polling stations, and cutting the throats or chopping off the fingers of anyone who votes. That has raised fears that a low turnout, especially in the south, could encourage electoral fraud and undermine the legitimacy of an election seen as a test of international efforts to build democracy in Afghanistan.

But Afghan officials have been trying to negotiate truces with local Taliban commanders who may be reluctant to cause Afghan civilian casualties in their own areas. The government has also ordered Western and domestic media to impose a blackout on coverage of violence during the poll to avoid scaring voters away.

International forces, meanwhile, have suspended offensive operations tomorrow and will not deploy any troops at polling stations so that they do not become a magnet for Taliban attacks.

A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabihullah Mujahed, claimed that four of the militants were in the building in a standoff with police that had left several dead.They were among 20 Taliban who had entered the city and were waiting orders to attack, he told AFP by telephone.

Dozens of extra foreign journalists have poured into the country in order to help cover the elections, which mark the second time in history that Afghans will elect a president.

Source: ANI