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Afghan Defense Minister Escapes Bungled Assassination Attempt

Afghan officials say the country's defense minister has escaped a bungled assassination attempt. The incident happened Saturday when gunmen fired on the car he had already left. The attack comes a week before Afghanistan's landmark parliamentary elections.

Officials say Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak drove to the airport in Kabul Saturday, and left the capital by helicopter. Gunmen then attacked his convoy as it left the airport.

Defense Ministry spokesman General Mohammed Zahir Azimi says that four assailants in military uniforms opened fire on the vehicles, hitting the defense minister's car, but causing no casualties.

General Azimi says the four men have been arrested in what he described as a bungled assassination attempt.

The attack comes just eight days before Afghans choose members of the new 249-member parliament, and elect local councils in each of the country's 34 provinces.

Senior Afghan and international officials have voiced concerns that the ballot could be violent, especially in areas in the south and east of the country, where Taleban rebels and other militants have carried out a recent series of attacks aimed at disrupting the vote.

The elections are the latest step on Afghanistan's path toward forming a democratic government after decades of war. They follow presidential elections that took place in October 2004.