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Afghanistan: Kabul rocked by blasts in Taliban's 'spring offensive'

String of explosions and gunfire rip through the Afghan capital in a high-profile attack.

Kabul attack shiite sunni 2011 12 6Enlarge
Afghan policemen stand guard after an explosion in Kabul on Dec. 6, 2011. (Daud Yardost/AFP/Getty Images)

The Afghan capital and three other provinces were hit by a series of attacks Sunday, with reports of gunfire and blasts in Kabul's main diplomatic area as well as its house of parliament in a coordinated attack claimed by the Taliban, reported Reuters.

"These attacks are the beginning of the spring offensive and we had planned them for months," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters. The group said it also launched other attacks in separate areas of the country today, as reports surface of violence in the Logar, Paktya, and Nangarhar provinces, according to the BBC

Meanwhile, Afghan security officials say, shortly before the attacks four suspected members of the Haqqani network were taken into custody over an the alleged attempted assassination of Vice President Karim Khalili, according to Reuters.

In today's attacks, a government spokesman told CNN that "more than 20 insurgents and suicide bombers" launched attacks in four provinces but Afghan security forces inflicted losses in return.

Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman added two civilians were killed and 15 Afghan police officers were wounded.

As many as 12 explosions were heard throughout the capital, according to The Telegraph, while gunfire reportedly richocheted throughout the city. It was not immediately clear if there were any casualties, but BBC reported at least seven militants killed and several dozen injured. 

The attack comes as an embarrassment to the Afghan security forces already under close scrutiny ahead of the planned 2014 withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan. 

In Kabul, alarms were going off at embassies throughout the so-called Green zone, said AFP, while Reuters said the main targets of the assault were the German and British embassies as well as the main NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) building there. 

ISAF confirmed the attacks on its Twitter feed and ISAF General Carsten Jacobson told Al Jazeera television he could confirm attacks on the US, German, British and Russian embassies, said AFP

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Additional violence was reported near Kabul's main parliament building, with police officer Mohammad Assan telling CNN a shooting took place there. Reuters said rockets were fired at the building, which had mostly been evacuated except for several parliamentarians who reportedly fought back against militants from the rooftop.

One of them, lawmaker Naeem Hameedzai, told Reuters, "I'm the representative of my people and I have to defend them."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is also reportedly under lockdown, one of his aides told AFP today, according to BBC. NBC's Kabul correspondent, Akbar Shinawar, said the Taliban claim to have attacked Karzai's presidential palace compound, but the report has yet to be verified. 

The attacks are the first seen in Kabul since the February shooting of NATO advisers and several soldiers at the interior ministry, said CNN

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/afghanistan/120415/afghanistan-kabul-rocked-blasts-taliban-spring-offensive