Deadly Taliban attacks escalate

Taliban
militants struck in the heart of the Afghan capital launching attacks on key
government targets in a clear sign the insurgents plan to escalate their fight
as the U.S. and its allies ramp up a campaign to end the war. At least five bystanders
and security forces were killed and nearly 40 wounded, officials said.

The
Defence Ministry said seven attackers had also been killed in the brazen
attack, which occurred 10 days before a major international conference in
London on ways to shore up the Afghan government to confront the growing
Taliban threat.

After
a series of blasts and more than three hours of subsequent gunfights outside
several ministries and inside a shopping mall, President Hamid Karzai said security
had been restored to the capital, though search operations continued amid
reports that more attackers were hiding in the city.

It
was the biggest assault on the capital since 28 October when gunmen with
automatic weapons and suicide vests stormed a guest house used by U.N. staff,
killing at least 11 people including three U.N. staff.

Taliban
spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press that 20 armed militants,
including some with suicide vests, had entered Kabul to target the presidential
palace and other government buildings in the centre of the capital.

Explosions
and heavy machine-gun fire rattled the city for hours. Debris was strewn on the
streets, which were quickly abandoned by crowds that normally fill the area.
Defence Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said a child and a policeman
were killed. The Ministry of Public Health later said five people — a civilian
and four security forces — were killed and 30 others wounded.

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