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Gunmen target Mazar-i-Sharif complex

Gunmen in uniforms have stormed a provincial court compound in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif. At least one police officer was killed and more than 20 other persons were wounded in a lengthy shootout.

Responsibility for Thursday's attack, which underscored Afghanistan's fragile security as US-led troops make phased withdrawals, was later claimed by the radical Taliban.

It followed a similar attack on Wednesday in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad.

Mazir-i-Sharif police spokesman Abdul Razaq Qaderi said the attackers first shot a guard, forced entry into the office of region's chief prosecutor and exchanged fire with security forces for several hours.

Local media outlet, Tolonews, said the head of the provincial appeals court and other officials were among those wounded.

A reporter of the news agency AFP said the assailants also threw grenades. One of the compound's buildings was set ablaze.

A provincial hospital doctor, Noor Mohammad Faiz, said court staff and police were also among those wounded.

Bundeswehr troops stationed nearby

Germany's Bundeswehr has some 800 military staff stationed at Camp Marmal on Masar-i-Sharif's outskirts to train and support Afghan security personnel in a new mission called "Resolute Support."

The US-led NATO alliance in December formally ended its so-called International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) combat mission which it began in 2001.

Last month, US President Barack Obama delayed until late 2015 a plan to further cut the current level of 9,800 US troops at the request of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Afghan forces, which are now responsible for security, are reported to be bracing for an intensified Taliban push during the region's summer months.

A recent UN report said ground fighting resulted in a 22 percent rise in civilian casualties last year.

ipj/kms (AFP, dpa, AP)

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