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A U.S. soldier provides security while an MD-530 Cayuse Warrior takes off with an all-Afghan crew for a combat mission on Sept. 27, 2015.

A U.S. soldier provides security while an MD-530 Cayuse Warrior takes off with an all-Afghan crew for a combat mission on Sept. 27, 2015. (Sandra Welch/U.S. Air Force)

KABUL, Afghanistan — Insurgents raided a government compound in southern Helmand province Wednesday, leaving at least nine people dead, a local official said.

The attack in the town of Gereshk is the latest in the Taliban’s heartland province, where insurgents’ targeting of government forces has prompted the U.S. to launch bombing raids and send in additional troops to advise and assist their Afghan counterparts.

“The militants attacked from four directions on the compound at 6 a.m.,” Omar Zwak, a spokesman for Helmand’s provincial governor said. “They were equipped with small arms, RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades), and suicide vests.”

Zwak said a suicide bomber was among the eight insurgents killed, and a police officer also died. Local media reported up to four suicide bombers took part in the raid, and that three officers were killed.

According to witnesses, there were about 10 attackers in total. Some occupied a three-story building near the government compound, which houses a police headquarters and the district governor’s building. By 5 p.m., they were still fighting with Afghan security forces, Zwak said.

The attack bore the hallmarks of the Taliban, who, according to The Associated Press, claimed responsibility.

Concern over the government’s ability to combat insurgents in Helmand has been growing since last month, when it was announced Afghan troops were withdrawing from two districts, leaving the Taliban in control of most of the northern part of the province.

The government said the move had been made to concentrate forces more effectively.

According to the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, the Taliban control more territory now than at any time since the U.S.-led invasion 15 years ago that ousted them from power.

Helmand province is a major poppy-growing region, and fighting often breaks out there over control of lucrative heroin smuggling routes.

Masood Sediqi contributed to this report.

wellman.phillip@stripes.com

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Phillip is a reporter and photographer for Stars and Stripes, based in Kaiserslautern, Germany. From 2016 to 2021, he covered the war in Afghanistan from Stripes’ Kabul bureau. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics.
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