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Afghan police halt Taliban attack

| Monday, June 10, 2013, 7:48 p.m.

KABUL, Afghanistan — A group of assailants shut down the city's airport for several hours early Monday in a brazen pre-dawn attack that shook the capital hours after President Hamid Karzai delivered a speech in which he implied that U.S. counterterrorism policies have radicalized Muslims.

Afghan police snapped into action moments after residents of the city awoke to thundering blasts about 4:30 a.m. At least seven gunmen, including two wearing suicide vests, had taken refuge in buildings under construction adjacent to the northern tip of the airport compound, which includes an international military base.

“It sounded very close and very frightening,” said Taj Mohammad Ahmadzada, a government employee. “There are few people on the streets.”

The Taliban asserted responsibility for the attack, which was similar to one against the U.S. Embassy in September 2011. Kabul's police chief, Gen. Mohammad Ayub Salangi, said his forces killed the seven assailants before they could inflict casualties or serious damage to the NATO base.

Afghan and foreign military officials hailed the police response, saying it was a testament to how far the country's security forces have come in recent years. But the breach in one of the most heavily guarded districts of the capital underscored the dangers that the country's insurgency continues to pose as the U.S. military and its allies are drawing down.

Elsewhere, a string of violent acts added to the toll of what has been a particularly deadly summer. In Zabul province in the south, provincial officials said, six suicide bombers were fatally shot by security forces as they sought to seize a government building. In the east, meanwhile, a NATO soldier was killed by an explosive device, the military said in a statement.

Hours before the airport attack, Karzai delivered the keynote speech at the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, a gathering convened by the Brookings Institution. His presence was closely watched because Qatari officials, with the backing of the United States, have allowed a delegation of the Taliban to set up residence in hopes that the country can serve as a staging ground for peace talks.

U.S. officials have prodded Karzai to jumpstart negotiations with the Taliban, hoping that such a breakthrough would reduce violence as the U.S. military footprint shrinks and make it easier to sign a long-term security cooperation agreement with Kabul.

Returning to a theme he has voiced publicly before, knowing it rankles his American benefactors, Karzai charged that the United States has waged a misguided war.

“Who is a terrorist?” Karzai demanded. “By waging this war on terrorism, have we brought less radicalism in the Muslim world or have we caused more radicalism in the Muslim World?”

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