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50 killed as troops foil Taliban bid

50 killed as troops  foil Taliban bid
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Militants attack a court house to free their members Kabul: A suicide bomb and gun attack on a court house in western Afghanistan has left more than...

Militants attack a court house to free their members

Kabul: A suicide bomb and gun attack on a court house in western Afghanistan has left more than 50 people dead and 90 injured, most of them civilians. Militants disguised as soldiers tried unsuccessfully to free suspected Taliban members in capital of the Farah province, Afghan officials said.

After a fierce initial gun battle, shooting continued as militants took cover in nearby buildings. The Taliban said they were behind the attack in Farah, which borders Iran. This was the deadliest attack in Afghanistan since December 2011. A bomb and gun attack on the governor's compound last May left six policemen, a civilian and four attackers dead.

The attack began at about 9am on Wednesday in the city of Farah, the Afghan officials said. The militants set off a large army vehicles packed with explosives, damaging nearby buildings - including the local governor's office - and two banks packed with civilians.

The gun battle then broke out with Afghan security forces, as militants took up positions in a number of buildings. Initial reports suggested the target was the governor's compound. Afghan officials said that 34 civilians, 10 members of the security forces and nine militants died.

According to provincial police chief Afgha Noor Kemtoz, six attackers wore suicide bomb vests and the aim of the attack had been to free 15 Taliban prisoners who were being transferred to the courthouse for trial. "Definitely the plan was to free the prisoners with this attack but, thank God, they did not succeed," he added. "All the prisoners are accounted for."

However, Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmadi was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying all the prisoners had been freed. Following the blast, gunmen entered several "government institutions", he was quoted as saying by the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press news agency.

Local shopkeeper Sayed Jan told the BBC: "I heard a huge bang and when I looked I saw several attackers armed with light and heavy weapons running towards the bank and the court. "There is blood and broken glass. There is a heavy exchange of gunfire and my shop has become a centre of the fighting." Eyewitnesses, including doctors in the city, said both sides had used machine-guns and grenades.

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