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Taliban attacks government buildings

The Associated Press

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- The Taliban unleashed a major assault Saturday on government buildings throughout Afghanistan's main southern city.

The Taliban said their goal was to take control of Kandahar, making the strike the most ambitious of a series of recent high-profile attacks on government installations.

The attack came a day after the Islamic movement said Osama bin Laden's death would only serve to boost morale, but a Taliban spokesman insisted it had been in the works for months before the al-Qaida leader was killed.

Shooting started shortly after midday and lasted more than seven hours, while government forces were backed by military helicopters firing from overhead.

At least eight locations were attacked: the governor's compound, the mayor's office, the intelligence agency headquarters, three police stations and two high schools, according to government officials.

The assailants included at least five suicide car bombers, three of whom were stopped by police before their explosives could go off, NATO forces said in a statement. In the end, none of the assaulted compounds were breached by the militants, NATO said.

At least one police officer and one civilian were killed and 20 other people wounded in the assaults, said Gov. Tooryalai Wesa, adding that the death toll was likely to rise as troops searched the area.

He said six Taliban fighters also have been killed.

Provincial government spokesman Zalmai Ayubi confirmed at least six assault locations -- the three government buildings and the police stations. A statement from the president's office said two high schools had also been attacked.

The Taliban said more than 100 militants flooded into the city -- including many escaped convicts who had been freed in a bold Taliban prison break last month. They were told to target any building used by the government or security forces.

"We are taking control of the entire city. We are at every corner," Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi told The Associated Press in a phone call.

A NATO official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to let the Afghan government make official statements, said the insurgents have not controlled any part of the city during Saturday's assaults.

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