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Taliban kill 21 at start of Afghan spring fighting

Afghan security personnel surrounded a government building after Taliban fighters stormed it in Jalalabad.

Rahmat Gul/Associated Press

Afghan security personnel surrounded a government building after Taliban fighters stormed it in Jalalabad.

JALALABAD, Afghanistan — The Taliban unleashed a wave of attacks that killed 21 people around the country, making a show of strength to start the spring fighting season. The annual surge in violence poses a new test for Afghan security forces, who for the first time will face it largely on their own as international combat forces prepare to withdraw.

Spring each year brings an escalation in fighting in Afghanistan with the end of snowy winter weather, which hampers movement.

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This year’s offensive by the Taliban will be an important gauge of how well Afghan government forces face insurgent attacks once foreign forces leave at the end of the year.

Since last spring, Afghan troops and police have taken up full security duties in the country, with US and NATO troops training and mentoring .

The Taliban warned last week that they’d launch their annual spring offensive on Monday, and it was no bluff — with a flurry of rocket blasts and attacks on police around the country and the storming of a government building.

The violence began with a pre-dawn rocket attack on the main NATO base at Bagram, as well as another on Kabul’s international airport soon after — both largely symbolic, doing little damage.

But around 9 a.m., three Taliban attackers attacked a provincial Justice Ministry building in Jalalabad, in eastern Afghanistan. They shot and killed two police guards and rushed into the building, just as employees were arriving for work, said provincial government spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzai.

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