Kabul, May 13 (IANS) At least nine people were killed while five others were wounded when gunmen opened fire in a government office in Afghanistan’s southern province of Helmand on Wednesday, police said.

The attack took place in the morning after two gunmen stormed the provincial Hajj and Religious Affairs Department where a religious gathering was underway, deputy provincial police chief Padshah Gul Bakhtyar told Xinhua.

The clash between attackers and the security forces lasted for three hours, he said.

“The attackers arrived on motorcycles. They also fired on nearby provincial government office building. The clash caused four policemen and three civilians killed in addition to the attackers,” he said, adding that five police sustained injuries.

Unofficial sources said 10 people were killed and 12 others wounded in the incident.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Helmand is notorious for poppy growing and is a known Taliban hotbed.

The Taliban-led insurgency has been rampant since mid-April when the militant group launched a yearly rebel offensive against Afghan security forces.