JALALABAD - The Taliban began their annual "spring offensive" Monday with attacks across Afghanistan, including a suicide assault on government offices that killed seven people plus the attackers and rocket strikes on two airports.
At least 10 people in total were killed in a series of attacks after Taliban leaders vowed last week that the offensive would target US-led foreign forces and Afghan government facilities.
Three suicide bombers entered the provincial justice department in the eastern city of Jalalabad, officials said, triggering a firefight with security forces that lasted several hours.
"All of the attackers were killed and their bodies displayed at the building," Abdul Rauf Uruzgani, chief police investigator, told a press conference in the city.
"The dead were three justice department employees, two policemen, a 15-year-old boy who was caught up in fighting and another visitor."
Two rockets exploded near Kabul airport at 5:00 am (0030 GMT), the exact time that the insurgents had pledged to start a new nationwide operation to cleanse "the filth of the infidels" from the country.
Four rockets were also fired at Bagram airport, the biggest NATO military base in Afghanistan, which lies north of Kabul.
There were no confirmed casualties in either airport attack. But two women and a policeman died in Ghazni province southwest of Kabul, when Taliban insurgents targeted several police checkpoints.
Mohammad Ali Ahmadi, Ghazni's deputy governor who gave the casualty figure, told AFP two police officers and six civilians were wounded.
- Taliban claim multiple attacks -
The Taliban's "Khaibar" offensive, named after an ancient battle between Muslims and Jews, began in the run-up to a second round of elections next month to choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai, who has ruled since the Taliban regime was toppled in 2001.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force confirmed it was investigating the airport attacks. "A vacant building and some equipment were damaged at Bagram," a spokesman said. "There were no casualties."
Sediq Sediqqi, the interior ministry spokesman, confirmed that two rockets fell outside Kabul airport but caused no casualties. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the spate of attacks via a recognised Twitter account.
The group said ambushes, bombings and firefights in provinces including Nimroz, Kapisa, Zabul, Patika and Paktika had killed US soldiers and Afghan police and soldiers during the day. The Taliban often exaggerate attacks and death tolls.
About 51,000 US-led NATO troops still deployed in Afghanistan are set to withdraw by December, ending a long and costly battle to defeat the Islamists, who launched a fierce insurgency after being ousted from power.
A small number of US troops may stay on from next year on a training and counter-terrorism mission.
But the Taliban "insists on the unconditional withdrawal of all invading forces", the group said in an English-language statement on its website last week.
The statement said that attacks during the coming "fighting season" would target US military bases, foreign embassies and vehicle convoys, as well as Afghan officials, politicians and translators.
Afghanistan's fighting season traditionally begins in April or May as snow recedes from the mountains, and the Taliban mark the occasion with an annual declaration to attack foreign forces and unseat the Kabul government.