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Blasts, gunfire rock Afghan capital

By AFP

Added 1st March 2017 01:35 PM

At least one person was killed and 35 others wounded in the carnage.

At least one person was killed and 35 others wounded in the carnage.

Explosions and gunfire echoed through Kabul in two separate Taliban assaults on security compounds Wednesday, officials said, as the insurgents ramp up attacks before the start of their annual spring offensive.

At least one person was killed and 35 others wounded in the carnage, which underscores rising insecurity in Afghanistan as the resurgent Taliban escalate their winter campaign of violence.

A suicide car bomber struck an Afghan police precinct in western Kabul and a gun battle ensued, a security official said, in what appeared to be a complex ongoing attack.

Minutes later a suicide bomber blew himself up at the gates of an Afghan intelligence agency branch in eastern Kabul as another attacker was gunned down while trying to enter the compound, the official added.

"There were two attacks in Kabul," the official told AFP.

"A car bomber hit a police station and another attacker who entered the building has taken position inside. Security forces are still engaged in fighting."

The Taliban claimed both assaults, with insurgent spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid calling them "martyrdom attacks" on Twitter.

The Afghan health ministry said the wounded, some of them in critical condition, had been rushed to hospitals.

"More casualties are expected as the ambulances are on their way," ministry spokesman Waheed Majroh told AFP.

Afghan security forces are battling a resurgent Taliban amid record casualties and mass desertions as the insurgents escalate nationwide attacks, even in winter months when the fighting usually wanes.

Repeated bids to launch peace negotiations with the Taliban have failed, and an intense new fighting season is expected to kick off in the spring.

The latest violence comes a day after an Afghan policeman linked to the Taliban shot dead 11 of his colleagues at a checkpoint in the southern province of Helmand, in the latest so-called insider attack.

Such attacks -- when Afghan soldiers and police turn their guns on their colleagues or on international troops -- have sapped morale and caused deep mistrust within security ranks.

Afghan forces, beset by record casualties, desertions and "ghost soldiers" who do not exist on the payrolls, have been struggling to rein in the Taliban since US-led NATO troops ended their combat mission in December 2014.

Kabul last month endorsed US general John Nicholson's call for thousands of additional troops in Afghanistan to stave off the militants ahead of the spring offensive.

Thousands of extra coalition troops were needed to break the war out of a stalemate, Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan, told the US Congress in what could be President Donald Trump's first major test of military strategy.

Separately, the Pentagon this year said it will deploy some 300 US Marines this spring to Helmand province alone.

The Marines will assist a NATO-led mission to train Afghan forces, in the latest sign that foreign forces are increasingly being drawn back into the worsening conflict.

 

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