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Coalition troops at the scene of an attack in Kabul on June 25, 2013, in which armed suicide bombers struck in a heavily fortified area of Kabul near the presidential palace. The attackers, who were wearing coalition military uniforms, made it through several checkpoints using fake documents.
Coalition troops at the scene of an attack in Kabul on June 25, 2013, in which armed suicide bombers struck in a heavily fortified area of Kabul near the presidential palace. The attackers, who were wearing coalition military uniforms, made it through several checkpoints using fake documents. (Heath Druzin/Stars and Stripes)
Coalition troops at the scene of an attack in Kabul on June 25, 2013, in which armed suicide bombers struck in a heavily fortified area of Kabul near the presidential palace. The attackers, who were wearing coalition military uniforms, made it through several checkpoints using fake documents.
Coalition troops at the scene of an attack in Kabul on June 25, 2013, in which armed suicide bombers struck in a heavily fortified area of Kabul near the presidential palace. The attackers, who were wearing coalition military uniforms, made it through several checkpoints using fake documents. (Heath Druzin/Stars and Stripes)
Afghan troops block the road near the presidential palace in Kabul after a complex attack June 25, 2013, involving armed suicide bombers an truck bombs. The attackers, who were wearing coalition military uniforms, made it through several checkpoints using fake documents.
Afghan troops block the road near the presidential palace in Kabul after a complex attack June 25, 2013, involving armed suicide bombers an truck bombs. The attackers, who were wearing coalition military uniforms, made it through several checkpoints using fake documents. (Heath Druzin/Stars and Stripes)

KABUL — Attackers in coalition uniforms penetrated one of the most fortified sections of the capital Tuesday to stage a deadly complex attack near the presidential palace just before Afghan president Hamid Karzai was to hold a press conference.

During the brief but brazen attack, insurgents used two SUV’s resembling coalition vehicles, fake badges and coalition uniforms, to get onto a heavily fortified road leading to the presidential palace. There they engaged in a gunbattle with Afghan troops and set off several bombs, according to Kabul’s deputy police chief, Gen. Dawood Amin.

Estimates for the number of attackers have varied from four to eight, but Afghan and coalition officials said all were killed.. The Associated Press reported that three Afghan guards also died.

The attack occurred in a highly sensitive area that, in addition to the palace, is home to ISAF headquarters, the Ministry of Defense, and the CIA’s Afghanistan headquarters. A Ministry of Defense statement said only that the attack was aimed at a “foreign office,” while Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, claimed the attack was aimed at the CIA office and that many foreign troops were killed. The Taliban routinely exaggerate casualty figures from their attacks.

An ISAF spokesman said Afghan troops repelled the attack and that coalition assistance was not requested, though several coalition troops were seen in the area after the firefight and a Reuters report said U.S. troops were involved in the initial gun battle.

The attack, which appeared aimed at demonstrating that the insurgents can strike in the capital at will despite the massive presence of Afghan and NATO security forces, comes one week after the announcement that the Taliban had opened a political office in the Gulf nation of Qatar. It was a step that briefly raised hopes that peace talks would start, but an opening ceremony that angered Karzai put the process on hold.

The U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan arrived in Kabul on Monday to discuss potential peace talks with Karzai.

A tweet from ISAF’s official account said the attack showed “division” within the Taliban ranks. An ISAF spokesman later explained it referred to some Taliban discussing peace talks and others continuing attacks, though neither the Taliban nor ISAF has called for a cease-fire and both sides have continued military operations since the inauguration of the Taliban political office.

The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, James Cunningham issued a statement condemning the attack and calling on the Taliban to come to the negotiating table to talk peace.

With the Dec. 31, 2014 deadline for all international combat troops to leave approaching, the Taliban have stepped up their attacks in the capital in the past three weeks, with several bombings and attacks targeting government buildings and employees.

Also on Tuesday, a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden car in Logar province, injuring three Afghan troops, and the Afghan intelligence service said they had arrested 16 militants in Nangarhar province, confiscating two suicide vests and homemade bombs.

druzin.heath@stripes.comTwitter: @Druzin_Stripes

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