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Taliban Strike Near Palace Inside Kabul

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Afghan security forces stood guard as smoke rose from the entrance gate of the presidential palace in Kabul on Tuesday.Afghan security forces stood guard as smoke rose from the entrance gate of the presidential palace in Kabul on Tuesday.

At least three suicide bombers launched a sophisticated attack on the heart of the Afghan government early Tuesday morning, using at least two land cruisers similar to those used by international soldiers here, fake badges and vehicle passes, which allowed at least one to get inside the heavily guarded area, according to Kabul’s deputy police chief.

The Taliban sent a statement taking responsibility for the attack and saying the targets were the Ariana Hotel, which they said is the C.I.A. base in Kabul, and the presidential palace.

The attack came just days after the Taliban opened an office in Doha, ostensibly for starting negotiations about a peace process. It raised questions anew about divisions within the Taliban and whether there is any broad commitment to peace.

There were casualties, but the numbers were unknown, said the deputy police chief, Gen. Daoud Amin. For the first half-hour of the attack, which began about 6:30 a.m. local time, gunfire could be heard across the Green Zone diplomatic area of Kabul, the location of the presidential palace and the headquarters of the International Security Assistance Force.

It was unclear exactly how far the attackers had gotten into the Green Zone, but the gunfire and explosions could be heard throughout the area.

“Three suicide bombers were driving a land cruiser packed with explosives with a fake vehicle pass and they wanted to enter the presidential palace area but they were stopped at the gate,” the police chief, Gen. Ayoub Salangi, said in a brief telephone call. “We don’t know their main target.”

Once the guards realized that the pass was fake, the suicide bombers got out of the explosive-laden car and one of them detonated it. The others got into a firefight with the guards, General Salangi said. However, people in the Afghan security forces who asked not to identified said that there were two vehicles and that they got through a heavily guarded gate used only by ministerial-level officials.

New York Times

June 25 2013, 10:13

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