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Taliban bomb heart of Kabul
9 ultras among 14 killed in explosions, gunfire

Blow to peace plan

The attacks were a slap in the face for an initiative to lure Taliban fighters to lay down their arms, which Karzai plans to announce at an international conference in London this month. The initiative is a key part of Obama's new strategy, which will also see 30,000 extra troops sent to turn the tide against a mounting insurgency.

Kabul, January 18
Taliban gunmen launched a brazen assault on the centre of Kabul on Monday, with suicide bombers blowing themselves up at several locations and militants battling security forces from inside a shopping centre engulfed in flames.

The insurgents failed in an apparent attempt to seize government buildings, but demonstrated their ability to cause mayhem at a time when US President Barack Obama was trying to rally support for an expanded military mission to fight them.

It was the worst attack on the city in nearly a year and came as Afghan President Hamid Karzai was swearing in cabinet members. Gunfire and loud explosions shook the city and a huge column of smoke poured out of the shopping centre, where gunmen battled security forces for hours. Sporadic fighting continued in some areas although Karzai said the city was back under control. Security officials said at least nine attackers were killed five inside the shopping centre and four who blew themselves up elsewhere.

The Health Ministry said four Afghan security force members and a civilian were killed and 38 others wounded. The security situation is under control and order has once again been restored, President Hamid Karzai said in a statement after more than four hours of battles, when security forces finally recaptured the burning shopping centre. The Defence Ministry said other fighters were still holed up in a cinema and fighting was still underway some hours later. Reuters



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