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Explosions, Gunfire in Kabul Diplomatic Quarter

Police officer stands guard after arriving at site of Taliban suicide attack, Kabul, Nov. 27, 2014.

An explosion followed by extended gunfire rocked the embassy district of the Afghan capital, Kabul.

Afghan officials say that heavily armed men assaulted a compound of an international organization in the Wazir Akbar Khan diplomatic district late Thursday night.

Witnesses described hearing multiple explosions in an area that contains numerous foreign embassies and compounds housing international agencies and companies, as well as the homes of some senior Afghan government officials.

One of the attackers had explosives strapped to his body and blew himself up at the entrance of the building that houses staff of the International Relief and Development aid agency.

Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad Ayoub Salangi said a Nepalese guard was wounded in an exchange of gunfire that followed. Afghan security forces killed two of the attackers, he said, adding that everything is now under control and that the fighting is over.

Afghan security forces inspect a British embassy vehicle which was targeted in a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014.
Afghan security forces inspect a British embassy vehicle which was targeted in a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014.

Authorities in Kabul say the diplomatic quarter attack occurred just hours after a suicide attack blew up a British embassy vehicle and killed five people along busy highway linking Kabul with the eastern city of Jalalabad. Police say a suicide bomber pulled his car close to a vehicle belonging to the British embassy and detonated the massive explosion.

"From today's suicide attack, we have received 21 wounded victims and five dead bodies," Akram Zada, Director of Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital, said, describing casualties from the roadway attack. "Among the deaths there was one foreigner and four Afghans."

The blast destroyed the heavily armored jeep and damaged at least a dozen civilian vehicles.

The British embassy said a British security guard and an Afghan member of the embassy staff were among the dead, but another British officer survived the attack. Local officials said the blast wounded at least 33 people, most of them Afghan civilians.

Attack condemned

"I strongly condemn this despicable attack by the Taliban against those who were serving to help improve conditions in Afghanistan," said General John Campbell, commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). "Those who commit such murderous acts have no place in the future of this country."

In Rome, visiting British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond denounced the attack, saying the victims had been both British and Afghan.

The U.N. Security Council also condemned the attack, saying in a statement that the perpetrators and sponsors of terrorist acts must be brought to justice and reiterating that no terrorist act can reverse the path toward Afghan-led peace, democracy and stability in Afghanistan.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for both attacks.

In a statement, Taliban insurgents said the car bomber “targeted a convoy of foreign invading forces,” and Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the attack in a message posted on Twitter.

Several hours later, news of the attacks in the Kabul embassy district erupted.

The past few months have seen an unusual rise in Taliban attacks across Afghanistan. The violence comes as U.S.-led international forces plan to officially end their combat mission and withdraw from the country at the end of next month. Thursday's attacks came one day after Afghanistan's new president, Ashraf Ghani, elaborated on the security challenge facing his nation.

"I lead a country marked by recurrent acts of terror against the innocent," Ghani said. "To hold wounded children in one’s arms in a hospital, as I was late Sunday evening, is to feel the depth of our fall from our sense of shared humanity and the values of our great religions.”

President Ghani was referring to a suicide bombing Sunday that targeted spectators at a volleyball match in an eastern Afghan province. The attack killed nearly 60 people, mostly civilians.

Earlier this week, a bomb blast in Kabul killed two American soldiers.

Suicide attacks against military convoys and foreign installations have increased sharply in recent weeks in Kabul, but most were not aimed at diplomatic targets. Insurgency-linked violence has become almost a daily routine in the capital city and there have been at least three other attacks since Monday.

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