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Taliban fighters attack Nato HQ

The Taliban have attacked Nato's headquarters at Kabul airport with rocket-propelled grenades, assault rifles and at least one large bomb, but all seven fighters were killed after a gun battle.

It was one of three attacks on state facilities by insurgents around the country. Another six militants wearing suicide bomb vests tried to storm the provincial council building in the capital of southern Zabul province, while three attempted to attack a district police headquarters just outside Kabul.

They wounded 18 people, including three police officers, when they detonated a car bomb outside the building in the city of Qalat, but security forces shot and killed them before they managed to enter. On the outskirts of Kabul, police killed one attacker and arrested two others who tried to storm the headquarters building in the Surobi district.

In the capital, it was the third time in a month that insurgents have launched a major attack seeking high-profile targets, part of an effort to rattle public confidence as Afghan security forces take over most responsibility for protecting the country ahead of the withdrawal of foreign troops next year.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said his government would not be deterred by the attacks. "These cowardly terrorist attacks on the Afghan people cannot change the chosen path of the Afghan people toward progress, development, peace and elections," he said, referring to next spring's poll to elect a new head of state.

Both Afghanistan and the United States support the opening of a Taliban political office in Qatar as part of an effort to rekindle talks with the insurgent group, which has been waging war against the government and the coalition for nearly 12 years. But first, Kabul and Washington say, the Taliban must renounce all ties to al Qaida and other terrorist groups and accept Afghanistan's constitution.

Police said that the airport attackers wearing suicide vests occupied one or two buildings under construction and began firing at the Nato HQ.

The international military coalition said it was assessing the situation and had no immediate reports of casualties or damage. The Nato coalition's Joint Command headquarters at the airport runs the day-to-day operations of the war against insurgents. The airport's military side is also used for Nato transport and other aircraft.

Kabul police said that after the initial blast, at least five insurgents then occupied two buildings, located in a single compound, and started firing rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons.

"Sometimes they are shooting from one building, sometimes from other," he said during the fighting. "It is a residential area and the compound has been surrounded by Afghan security forces. The security forces surrounded the buildings and are being careful because it is a residential area."

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