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Taliban Stage Brazen Assault Near Afghan Presidential Palace

Afghan authorities say Taliban militants have carried out a brazen attack near the presidential palace in Kabul, killing three security guards before all of the assailants were killed.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the early Tuesday morning assault, during which explosions and gunfire rang out in a heavily fortified area of the capital that also houses the defense ministry and the U.S. Embassy.

Authorities said the attackers approached the presidential palace in two vehicles laden with explosives. They said the occupants of one of the vehicles bluffed their way through a checkpoint by presenting false papers and wearing military-style uniforms.

Afghan officials said the second car was stopped outside the gate when assailants in both vehicles began shooting and setting off their explosives.

The assault came as reporters were gathering at the palace for a press event with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The whereabouts of Mr. Karzai, who lives in the building, were not immediately clear.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, a civilian vehicle hit a bomb buried in the road in southern Afghanistan, killing at least eight women and one child and wounding two men. Officials say all the victims were relatives.

Meanwhile, a U.S. envoy tasked with helping the Afghan government and the Taliban pursue peace talks left Kabul for neighboring Pakistan. Efforts by James Dobbins ran into difficulties over the opening last week of a Taliban office in the Gulf emirate of Qatar.

Mr. Karzai objected to the opening of the Taliban office because the group raised a flag and posted a sign identifying the facility as an office of "the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan."

That was the name used by the Taliban group that formerly controlled Afghanistan but was deposed in late 2001. The "Islamic Emirate" was never recognized internationally as a government.

Officials said a substitute sign was posted identifying the Doha facility as the "Political Office of the Afghan Taliban."