Taliban gunmen launch suicide attack near Kandahar

Kandahar (Afghanistan) (AFP) - Taliban militants wearing Afghan army uniforms launched a suicide and gun attack on a police headquarters near Kandahar Thursday, killing one soldier before the attackers were shot dead, authorities said.

The attack came at dawn in the district of Arghandab, some 25 kilometres (15 miles) west of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, a relatively quiet area unused to such attacks, which appear to be a sign of the Taliban's alarming new push into urban areas.

Six people -- five assailants and one Afghan army soldier -- were killed in the attack, police told AFP.

"First one attacker detonated his vehicle laden with explosives at the entrance of the Arghandab police headquarters, then four others tried to enter the compound," Zia Durrani, Kandahar police spokesman told AFP.

The attack lasted half an hour before the gunmen were killed by security forces, Durrani said.

Niaz Mohammad Mujahid, police chief for Arghandab district, said that one Afghan soldier was killed and three others were injured. A spokesman for the Kandahar governor confirmed the assault.

The Taliban, who have been fighting a bloody insurgency since they were driven from power in the US invasion of 2001, claimed responsibility for the attack.

"When I heard the explosion I thought of my son, who serves in the police force," Shafi Aka, a local Arghandab resident, told AFP.

"I called my son right away and heard him saying, 'We are under attack'."

His son survived the assault.