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Afghan President Escapes Assassination Attempt

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has survived an assault by Taliban militants on a military parade in Kabul. At least three people were killed, including a parliament member, and eight others were wounded in the attack . Ayaz Gul has details from Islamabad.

Officials and witnesses say the gunfire erupted as the national anthem was ending and guests were about take their seats at the ceremony in central Kabul.

Hundreds of people, including senior government officials and politicians attending the event were seen ducking for cover as shots rang out.

President Hamid Karzai, cabinet ministers, parliamentarians, foreign diplomats as well as military commanders were evacuated from the scene after the gunfire broke out.

Mr. Karzai later appeared on the national television to appeal for calm.

The Afghan president described the attackers as enemies of Afghanistan's security and progress. He said that military forces surrounded them quickly and arrested some of the suspects.

Taliban insurgents claimed responsibility for carrying the attack, saying Mr. Karzai was their target. A spokesman for the group says three of the six fighters involved in the attack were killed. The rest escaped.

The assassination attempt came despite unprecedented tight security for the military parade, which marked the fall of the Soviet-backed government to the Afghan mujahideen 16 years ago.

A defense ministry spokesman says that all cabinet members and foreign diplomats, including the U.S ambassador to Kabul and the U.S commander of the international forces in Afghanistan, were safe and well.

President Karzai has survived several assassination attempts since he came to power after U.S-led international coalition and Afghan forces ousted the Taliban from power in late 2001.

Taliban insurgents have carried out frequent attacks on local and foreign security forces and have vowed to intensify their attacks this year in a bid to overthrow President Karzai's government and drive foreign forces out of Afghanistan.