At least 53 people were killed today in Afghanistan after "suicide bombers disguised as Afghan soldiers stormed a courthouse in Farah province in a failed bid to free more than a dozen Taliban," USA Today reports.
"The complex assault began at around 8:45 a.m., when two suicide attackers detonated explosives packed into an army truck at the entrance gate of the provincial government compound in Farah, according to police officials. After the explosion, which ripped through the mayor's office and neighboring buildings, insurgents rushed the packed provincial courthouse, taking civilians and a handful of employees hostage.
"Afghan security forces surrounded the building, firing at the Taliban fighters tucked away on the second floor. At some point during the nearly seven-hour gunfight, the insurgents took the hostages downstairs to the basement and shot them, the police said."
The assault happened in the Farah province, which borders Iran to the west. The last big attack came in May, when insurgents killed some 11 people.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the attack happened just as Afghanistan's intelligence chief returned to the country from the United States, where Asadullah Khalid was recovering from injuries he sustained during a December assassination attempt.
The Journal adds that Khalid returns to a complex situation:
"He returns to Afghanistan, which is facing presidential elections next year, as a political celebrity. Billboards and banners have sprung up all over Kabul welcoming him home. "Your recovery is good news for the Afghan nation, and bad news for the enemies of Afghanistan," said one such sign on the Kabul airport road.
"Mr. Khalid will have to deal with a deteriorating security situation as U.S.-led forces withdraw. Wednesday's gunbattle in Farah, centered around a courthouse, was one of the bloodiest such assaults in recent years."