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Eight Killed In Battle In Afghanistan's East

KHOST, Afghanistan (Reuters) -- At least eight people have been killed in attacks by Taliban guerrillas, including waves of suicide bombers, on government buildings in a town in eastern Afghanistan, residents and officials say.

The Taliban, leading a growing insurgency against the Western-backed government and seeking to drive foreign forces out of Afghanistan, claimed responsibility for the assault on July 21.

It said 15 suicide bombers were involved in the attacks on government buildings in Gardez, capital of eastern Paktia Province.

Two provincial officials in Gardez said at least five members of the Afghan security forces and three Taliban fighters had been killed as gun-battles raged in the town.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity.

At least two of the suicide bombers were dressed in traditional head-to-toe burqas worn by many Afghan women, said an Afghan source working for a foreign aid agency.

Captain Elizabeth Mathias, a U.S. military spokeswoman, said suicide attacks had been reported against the governor's compound in Gardez, the police headquarters and the National Directorate of Security offices.

The complex attack resembled other recent assaults by the Taliban in eastern Nuristan, Paktika Province and even the capital, Kabul, and elsewhere

Gun-battles were being fought between the insurgents and government forces and at least one loud blast was heard, several Gardez residents said on condition of anonymity.

Officials in the town would not comment openly and the Interior Ministry in Kabul said it was checking the reports.

Earlier on July 21, Taliban fighters kidnapped 13 workers from a construction firm in the Wazi Zadran district of Paktia, district chief Abdul Wali Zadran told Reuters.

Violence has flared across Afghanistan since thousands of U.S. Marines and British troops launched major offensives in the southern Taliban stronghold of Helmand early this month.

The offensives are the first operations under U.S. President Barack Obama's new regional strategy to defeat the Taliban and its Islamist allies and stabilize Afghanistan.