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Taliban attack another foreign compound in Kabul

KABUL: Taliban militants launched an attack on a foreign compound in Kabul Saturday, officials said, the latest in a series of strikes in the Afghan capital during the final weeks of NATO’s 13-year war against the insurgents

Gunfire and explosions erupted as elite commando police fought with the attackers in west Kabul, not far from the parliament.

The attack came two days after the Taliban attacked a foreign guesthouse in the diplomatic district of the city and a suicide bomber targeted a British embassy vehicle in a blast that killed six people.

Kabul has been hit by at least nine attacks in the last two weeks, with targets including US military convoys, foreign security contractor compounds and a female Afghan member of parliament.

On December 31, the US-led NATO combat mission in Afghanistan will end and be replaced by a follow-on mission tasked with supporting the Afghan army and police who have taken over responsibility for thwarting the Taliban.

“It is an ongoing terrorist attack against an office used by foreigners,” Najib Danish, the interior ministry deputy spokesman, told AFP, giving no further details about the target.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed on Twitter that Saturday’s attack was against a secret Christian missionary and that a meeting of Australian visitors had been hit.

“A spate of deadly martyrdom attacks have rocked important enemy targets in recent days,” Mujahid added.

Security officials told AFP that the compound was used by a small foreign relief organisation.

“Some of the gunmen have taken position inside the building but are surrounded by the security forces. At the moment we can not confirm any casualties,” a spokesman for Kabul police said.

– NATO draws down –

NATO troop numbers, which peaked at 130,000 in 2010, will fall to about 12,500 next year, with fears growing that the declining international presence is already fuelling the Islamist insurgency.

Taliban insurgents this week also launched a prolonged offensive against a major Afghan army base that was handed over by NATO forces last month.

The attack against Camp Bastion in the southern province of Helmand started on Thursday evening and was finally repelled on Saturday, military officials said.

Camp Bastion, now known as Shorabak, was Britain’s biggest military base in Helmand province and was a key airfield for US-led NATO operations in the Taliban heartlands of the south.

At least five Afghan soldiers died in the fighting.

President Ashraf Ghani, who came to power in September, has vowed to bring peace to Afghanistan after decades of conflict, saying he is open to talks with the Taliban, who ruled Kabul from 1996 to 2001.

Ghani finally emerged as president after signing a power-sharing deal with his poll rival Abdullah Abdullah.

Both men claimed to have won fraud-tainted elections in a stand-off that caused political paralysis in Kabul and fanned worsening violence nationwide.

Britain hosts a major donor conference on Afghanistan next week, which is designed to showcase Ghani’s “national unity government” and demonstrate continuing international support for the country. -AFP

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