A Taliban suicide bomb and gun attack on a police headquarters in eastern Afghanistan killed at least five officers and injured 18 other people Sunday, authorities said.
The attack -- part of the Taliban's all-out assault during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan -- was launched at 6:00 am and was still continuing more than six hours later, said the regional police commander, Asadullah Shirzad.
In addition to the dead, nine police officers and nine civilians were wounded, he said.
The attack involved at least five Taliban, one of whom blew himself up at the entrance to the site in the city of Gardez to clear the way for the others.
One was still holding out more than six hours later, said Shirzad, whose base in the city centre houses both regular policemen and police special forces.
His description of the attack suggested a well-prepared and coordinated assault.
"One (attacker) blew up his vehicle at the entrance of the headquarters, opening the way for two others who opened fire on the security forces. Another suicide bomber was killed," he told AFP.
The head of the police hospital, Dr. Shir Mohammad, confirmed the five fatalities.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the operation in a statement.
"Around 6:20 this morning a martyr attack was conducted by our mujahideen against a special forces base in Gardez, Paktia," he wrote.
"First a car bomb detonated then our mujahideen entered the building, opening fire on police."
Since they launched their spring offensive in late April, the Taliban have been mounting lethal assaults on positions of the Afghan army and police, who have lost several dozen men in recent weeks.
About sixty soldiers were killed on their bases, mostly at night, in the southern province of Kandahar alone around the end of May.
The insurgents are also targeting the international coalition supporting Afghan forces.
Seven US soldiers were injured on Saturday in an insider attack by an Afghan soldier who turned his weapon on his instructors and advisers.
The Taliban did not directly claim the attack but described the soldier, who was killed, as a "patriot."
On June 11 the insurgents claimed responsibility for a similar attack in which an Afghan soldier killed three US soldiers and wounded a fourth in the eastern province of Nangarhar.
The Pentagon is set to announce it is sending another 4,000 US troops to the country to counter the increasingly aggressive insurgents.
US troops in Afghanistan currently number about 8,400, with another 5,000 from NATO allies. They mainly serve in a training and advisory capacity.
Reports about the death toll vary ||A government spokesman said two police killed and five wounded ||Doctors at the city hospital said at least five were killed and 30 people wounded, including 20 civilians