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Suicide Attack Hit Afghanistan Capital Kabul
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Explosions and gunfire in the centre of the Afghan capital, Kabul, have left at least 17 people dead, officials say. A suicide bomber detonated explosives near Kabul's main shopping centre.

Several smaller blasts followed and two other attackers were shot dead. A Taliban spokesman said they carried out the attacks. A Frenchman and two policemen are reported to have died. The violence comes as Nato and Afghan forces continue Operation Moshtarak to tackle the Taliban in Helmand province.

Kabul has been relatively quiet since 18 January, when Taliban bombers and gunmen attacked government targets and shopping malls, killing 12 people. Friday's attack is also the Taliban's first major raid since the arrest of key leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, in Pakistan this month.

The BBC's Martin Patience, in Kabul, says the first blast on Friday happened at 0630 local time (0200 GMT) close to the Kabul City Centre shopping area and the Safi Landmark Hotel. The Park Residence Hotel, popular with foreigners, was also close to the main blast and there are reports that a number of foreign nationals may have been killed.

Indian nationals were said to be staying in hotels in the area.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said one French visitor to Afghanistan had been killed while Agence France-Presse reported Afghan interior ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary as saying an Italian national was also among the dead.

At least 32 people are reported to have been injured in the attacks.
Kabul police official Abdul Ghafor Sayedzada said a building in front of the hotel had caught fire. At least two smaller explosions were reported and security forces exchanged fire with gunmen for several hours after sealing off the area.
Source: BBC

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