Dozens of armed insurgents have attacked a convoy carrying a presidential security team in southeastern Afghanistan, sparking a gun battle in which four guards were wounded, an official said.
The militants ambushed the convoy on Thursday as it travelled through the volatile southeastern Paktika province, ahead of a planned visit by President Hamid Karzai to Urgun district, where a devastating suicide attack killed 41 on Tuesday.
The attack underlines the fragile security situation Afghanistan faces as NATO progressively withdraws its 50,000 remaining combat troops, leaving local forces to battle a resilient Taliban insurgency.
“The security team was travelling to Urgun district (in neighbouring Paktika province) to prepare for the president’s visit there,” top presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi told AFP.
“When they were ambushed, they fought back and called in for air and ground support, that were quickly deployed, repelling the assailants.
“Unfortunately four guards were injured in the fighting which lasted for some hours.”.
BREAKING: President Karzai protection force came under Taliban attack in Zormat district on their way to Urgoon. 4 wounded. Fight continues.
— Lotfullah Najafizada (@LNajafizada) July 17, 2014
The convoy pushed ahead despite the attack, Faizi added, facing two more ambushes by insurgents on the way, but reached its destination without sustaining any further casualties.
A security source in the region said four vehicles of the president’s security convoy were also damaged by rocket fire.
The main highway connecting Kabul to Afghanistan’s southern regions is often the sight of insurgent ambushes.
It was not clear how Thursday’s insurgent ambush had affected Hamid Karzai’s planned trip to the region, with Faizi insisting he will visit “soon”.
The attack in Urgun took place in a bustling market place and was one of the deadliest in the war-torn country for months.