Taliban fighters wearing suicide vests and armed with AK-47 rifles and rocket-propelled grenades attacked the main police station Saturday in the southeast city of Khost, triggering hours-long gunbattles that left seven militants dead and four people wounded, officials said.
Also Saturday, a British soldier was killed by a roadside bomb during a patrol in the Lashkar Gah district of Helmand province, the focus of major offensives by U.S. and British forces against the Taliban. The soldier was the 20th British service member killed in Afghanistan this month and the 189th since the war began in 2001.
The attack in Khost began in the afternoon when at least six Taliban fighters wearing explosive stormed the area around the main police station and a nearby government-run bank. All were all shot and killed before they could detonate their explosive vests, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
A seventh attacker detonated a car rigged with the explosives near a police rapid reaction force, wounding two policemen, the ministry said. Two civilians - a woman and a child - were wounded in the attack on the bank, the ministry added.
Interior Ministry spokesman Zemerai Bashary said all the attackers had been killed, but residents reached by telephone from Kabul said sporadic firing could still be heard late in the afternoon.
Provincial council member Tajaly Khan Saber told The Associated Press that the firing kept residents off the streets of the city, site of a major U.S. military base, about 95 miles south of Kabul.
It was not clear if U.S. troops were involved in the fighting Saturday, but U.S. helicopters patrolled the skies overhead.
Ramazan Bashardost, a member of parliament and one of about 40 presidential candidates, was in Khost campaigning for the Aug. 20 ballot but did not appear to be a target of the attack. He told the AP by phone that he was safe. Bashardost said shops in the city were closed and streets were full of Afghan soldiers.
Khost is about 12 miles from the Pakistani border and has long been a flash point because of smuggling across the frontier.
Last May, 11 Taliban suicide bombers struck government buildings in Khost, killing 20 people and wounding three Americans.
On Tuesday, suspected Taliban militants armed with bombs, rifles and rocket-propelled grenades launched near-simultaneous assaults in Gardez, about 50 miles northwest of Khost, and in the eastern city of Jalalabad. Six Afghan police and intelligence officers and eight militants died in the two attacks.
Fighting has increased sharply in Afghanistan this month after President Barack Obama ordered thousands more U.S. troops to the country, shifting the focus of the war against Muslim extremism from Iraq.
Two American Service Members Killed in Bomb Attack
A bomb attack killed two American service members in southern Afghanistan on Friday.
NATO reported the insurgent attack and U.S. military spokesman Navy Lt. Robert Carr confirmed that the troops were American. No other details were immediately available.
At least 66 international troops have died in Iraq in July, the bloodiest month of the nearly eight-year war.
Britain's Downing Street says Prime Minister Gordon Brown and President Barack Obama have urged NATO allies to share the burden of heavy combat in Afghanistan.
Brown's office said the leaders spoke Friday by telephone to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. British and U.S. troops have taken heavy losses as they seek to oust Taliban fighters from the volatile southern Helmand province.
Brown and Mr. Obama "agreed on the importance of better military and civilian burden sharing with NATO allies," the British leader's office said in a statement.
Some NATO nations have been criticized over their reluctance to take on combat roles.
Mass. Marine Dies of Afghan Combat Wounds
Marine Corporal Nicholas Xiarhos, 21, died of combat wounds on Thursday. The circumstances surrounding his death have not been made public yet by the Pentagon.
Cpl. Xiarhos was serving with the 10,000-member Marine Expeditionary Brigade fighting a fierce battle in southern Afghanistan. He had volunteered to go there after serving in Anbar, Iraq.
His father is Yarmouth Police Lt. Steve Xiarhos.
"He loved his sisters and his brother. He was a leader," he told CBS Station WBZ.
Cpl. Xiarhos' family said after the young man returned from his tour in Iraq, he had the choice to go to Afghanistan or to the Mediterranean. He chose Afghanistan, they say, because he owed a debt of gratitude to a friend.
"It frightened us. I don't think it frightened him," said his mother, Lisa Xiarhos. "He was living the dream. That's what he said."
"He was proud that in Iraq women and girls could go to school without being killed or harassed," Steve Xiarhos said of his son's work in Iraq.
"He loved the children in Iraq," Lisa said.
His father wrote a letter to the Cape Cod Times about his son's service earlier this month.
Here is an excerpt:
"Take a moment to be proud to be an American, to reflect on our commander in chief's words, and to honor our heroic troops who are spending their summer fighting for us - and each other - in the hottest, dirtiest and most dangerous places in the world.
"Our enemy consists of adaptive and experienced fighters so the battles will not be easy. But freedom will be won and our troops, including Andrew and Nicholas, will eventually all come home."
"Andrew" is Cpl. Andrew Coville, a close friend of Nicholas Xiarhos.
A bike ride "For the Fallen" on Saturday will run from Yarmouth to Wellfleet in honor of the Marines.