Suicide bombers, disguised as soldiers, attacked a government compound on Wednesday in a bid to free more than a dozen Taliban prisoners, being transferred to court proceedings in western Afghanistan, officials said. An official said at least 53 people — 34 civilians, 10 security forces and nine attackers — were killed in the day-long gunbattle.

The assault in Farah province was the latest example of the Taliban’s ability to strike official institutions despite usually tight security measures. The violence has undermined confidence in President Karzai’s government as it tries to take over its own security ahead of the withdrawal of international combat forces by the end of 2014.

Police said six men wearing suicide vests drove into the centre of the provincial capital , in army vehicles that allowed them to bypass checkpoints.

Two of the attackers blew themselves up inside one of the vehicles while four others jumped out of the second and ran toward the courthouse and prosecutor’s office, he said. Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi claimed responsibility for the attack in a text message sent to reporters.

Farah province, bordered by Iran and Afghanistan’s volatile Helmand province, has seen an uptick in attacks as militants seek to disrupt efforts to stabilise the area.

In Kabul, meanwhile, Afghanistan’s intelligence chief Asadullah Khalid returned to Kabul nearly four months after he was seriously wounded by a Taliban suicide bomber posing as a messenger of peace. — AP