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Taliban attack presidential palace in Afghanistan

| Monday, June 24, 2013, 11:33 p.m.
Smoke rises from the eastern gate of the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday June 25, 2013. The Taliban said they have hit one of the most secure areas of the Afghan capital with a suicide attack, as a series of explosions rocked the gate leading into the presidential palace.
Afghans chant anti-government slogans during a demonstration in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, June 24, 2013. The protests centered around government plans to develop a subdivision in the capital on land that has long been occupied by squatters. Demonstrators blocked two main roads out of the city, and said they would continue their protests until the government gave them somewhere else to live.

KABUL, Afghanistan — A series of explosions rocked one of the most secure areas of the Afghan capital early Tuesday in an attack outside the presidential palace.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the early-morning attack that came when reporters were gathering for a news conference called by President Hamid Karzai, who was expected to talk about ongoing efforts to open peace talks with the militant group.

They counted at least seven or eight explosions and then about 45 minutes of an on-and-off gunbattle.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid sent a text message saying the militants had “brought death to the enemy” with a suicide attack, but further details were not immediately available.

Police had no immediate comment.

The palace is in a large fortified area of downtown Kabul that also includes the U.S. Embassy and the headquarters for the NATO-led coalition forces and where access is heavily restricted.

Lt. Col. Frank Hoelzner, a spokesman for the NATO coalition, said he had no immediate information but that the headquarters had not been affected by the attack. The U.S. Embassy was not immediately available for comment.

The Taliban have indicated they are willing to open peace talks with the U.S. and the Afghanistan government and just last week opened an office in Qatar for possible negotiations.

But at the same time they have not renounced violence and attacks have continued across Afghanistan.

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