KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – Two Taliban militants hiding small guns in their shoes slipped into a provincial governor's compound in southern Afghanistan on Saturday, setting off a fierce gunbattle that left two security guards and both attackers dead.
Kandahar Gov. Tooryalai Wesa said the two men made it through a pair of security checks without their weapons being detected. A guard at the last check – at the reception room for the governor's office – noticed something suspicious and stopped them.
The attackers then pulled out the guns, shot the guards and took their weapons, Wesa said.
The ensuing gunbattle with security forces lasted about 30 minutes, said Parwiz Najib, a spokesman for the governor. One other guard was wounded in the attack.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi claimed responsibility for the attack.
Najib had initially said the two attackers were wearing suicide vests. Wesa later said the men had explosives but not suicide vests.
He said he was in his office meeting with constituents when he heard shooting out in the reception room.
"There was an explosion," Wesa said, but he did not know whether the blast was caused by grenades or something else.
He and his guests escaped out a back door to the press office and waited out the rest of the attack.
Wesa said the assailants came under the pretext of asking for him to intercede on behalf of relatives that had been detained – a common request.
"The insurgents are not stupid. They had hidden very small guns in their shoes and at two checkpoints they didn't catch them," Wesa said.
Police also discovered two cars parked outside the compound that had been rigged with explosives, apparently ready to be set off if there was a surge of people out into the street, Wesa said. The police diffused those bombs, he said.
Saturday's attack is another reminder of the insurgents' ability to strike in even some of the most secure areas of the country. Earlier this month, militants launched a large-scale coordinated attack on the diplomatic center of the capital, Kabul, and three other cities in which 36 insurgents and 11 others were killed.