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Five die in government building attack in Afghanistan


At least five people were killed in a fire fight after a group of insurgents tried to storm a government building in eastern Afghanistan today, police said.

General Dawlat Khan Zadran, police chief of Paktika province, said four insurgents attempted to take over the building in Sharan, about 100 miles (160km) south of the capital, Kabul.

Three attackers and two policemen were killed in the ensuing fire fight, Gen Zadran said. Officers were still exchanging fire with the fourth insurgent.

Paktika province borders Pakistan and is one of the main routes for Taliban fighters infiltrating into eastern Afghanistan from their sanctuaries across the border.

It is also one of the main strongholds of the al Qaida-linked Haqqani network which has taken credit for a series of spectacular attacks, including suicide bombings inside Kabul.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack and said it involved multiple targets.

In a statement emailed to journalists, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the governor's office, the provincial reconstruction team and the intelligence headquarters were all hit.

Gen Zadran, however, said the attack was confined to one building.

Elsewhere, a joint Afghan and coalition raid killed seven suspected insurgents and captured 30 others in Balkh province, 180 miles (300km) north of Kabul.

A military statement said the rebels used rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire to engage the security force. Caches of home-made explosives, pressure-plate bombs, weapons and ammunition also were seized.

In a separate development, officials said the US and Nato are continuing to reorient their entire supply network to the so-called Northern Distribution Network through Russia and Central Asia, rather than through Pakistan, which served as the main conduit for the logistics chain in the past.

Pakistan shut down the alliance's main transit routes from the port of Karachi in November in response to a Nato air attack on a Pakistani border post that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

About 85% of military fuel supplies are now going through the northern route, said a US official. And nearly a third of other supplies that used to arrive through Pakistan are now using the alternate route.

For most of the 10-year war in Afghanistan, 90% of supplies shipped to the international force came through Pakistan, via the port of Karachi. But over the past three years, road and rail shipments from Nato's European members via Central Asia have expanded, and before the border incident accounted for more than half of all overland deliveries.