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Taliban launches attacks on central Kabul

Taliban fighters launched a wave of attacks on government buildings and the central bank in the highly fortified centre of the Afghan capital on Monday, the militia said.

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Witnesses reported hearing a series of explosions and gunfire in a busy area of Kabul near the presidential palace, witnesses said.

There was no immediate information about any casualties.

“It is our work, the targets are the (presidential) palace, the finance, justice and mines ministries, and the central bank,” purported Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.

“Twenty of our suicide bombers have entered the area and fighting is ongoing,” he said, adding that one militant had detonated a suicide vest at the entrance to the presidential palace complex.

Police have surrounded the area, witnesses said.

Pedestrians in the area, a busy shopping and business precinct, ran after hearing an explosion followed by smaller blasts and gunfire, a local businessman told AFP.

“I heard the blast then we started running, but we happened to be running towards the explosions,” said Bahram Sarwary.

“I saw smoke coming from a building near the central bank and the presidential palace and I saw at least one person injured.”

The attacks came a day after the government said President Hamid Karzai was to announce a new plan aimed at forging peace with the Islamist Taliban and other militants fighting to topple his administration.

The plan would be announced ahead of a key international conference on Afghanistan’s security and development due to be held in London on January 28, Karzai’s spokesman Waheed Omar said.

“The scheme we are proposing this time is taking all those into consideration and learning from the past and trying to come up with a proper programme where we have all the necessary ground to allow those joining the programme to have a peaceful life,” he said.

Karzai has long called for peace talks with the Taliban — even offering government posts to its leaders — but the militia has refused dialogue until the withdrawal of international troops on which Kabul relies for security.

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