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Shock attack by Taliban kills scores

Audacious attacks by Taliban insurgents on two government buildings in Kabul on Wednesday that killed as many as 28 people are more than likely a response to planned U.S. troop increases, according to analysts.

The attacks, the boldest on the capital by the Islamist group since their ouster in 2001, also appear timed to coincide with a planned visit by the new U.S. envoy to the region, Richard Holbrooke.

The attacks occured minutes apart and threw the city into chaos. In the first attack, gunmen stormed the Justice Ministry close to the presidential palace. Almost simultaneously, two suicide bombers attacked another state building in the north of the city.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahed, said the group's fighters attacked the Justice Ministry and a Prison Department office building in revenge for the treatment of jailed insurgents.

But analysts here said the attacks likely had more to do with the planned increase in troop numbers — foreign forces currently standing at some 70,000 and expected to be boosted by 30,000 U.S. soldiers this year — and were a demonstration of power by the Taliban.

Afghanistan is in the grip of worsening violence.

On Tuesday, a suicide bomb hit a convoy of NATO-led troops and killed two soldiers in Khost Province near the border with Pakistan, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) told Reuters.

Most troops in eastern Afghanistan are American.