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Blasts Rock Afghanistan, NATO in Taliban 'Spring Offensive'

Fighting continues in one of the biggest attacks since 2001

Common Dreams staff

The Taliban said they were behind the co-ordinated attacks across the country [Reuters]

Over a dozen explosions went off around Afghanistan today in a set of coordinated attacks. Taliban forces are taking credit for the attacks, saying it is the start of a 'spring offensive'. The Taliban said the main targets were the German and British embassies, and the headquarters of Afghanistan's NATO-led force.

Suicide bombers and gunfire consumed the center of Kabul as Taliban fighters took over buildings and tried to enter parliament. Security forces have been exchanging fire throughout the day, and a total of 19 insurgents have died and 14 police and nine civilians were wounded, the Interior Ministry said.

A Taliban spokesman told Reuters Afghan attacks were retaliation for Koran burnings, the US marine urination video and the Kandahar shooting massacre, as the US and NATO have continued to fumble the projected withdraw of its 130,000 troops by the end of 2014 and hand responsibility for security to Afghan forces.

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RT: Kabul bomb wave, rockets fired: Taliban targets diplomats & NATO

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Al-Jazeera: Afghanistan rocked by wave of Taliban attacks

Suicide bombers have struck across Afghanistan in co-ordinated attacks, with explosions and gunfire rocking the diplomatic area of Kabul as Taliban fighters took over buildings and tried to enter parliament.

Outside the capital on Sunday, attackers also targeted government buildings in Logar province, the airport in Jalalabad, and a police facility in the town of Gardez in Paktya province.

A Taliban spokesman said the violence marked the start of their annual spring offensive which heralds the fighting season, adding that "a lot of suicide bombers" were involved.

The attacks which are among the most serious on the capital since US-backed Afghan forces removed the group from power in 2001.

Al Jazeera's Qais Azimy, reporting from Kabul, said gun battles were still raging in parts of the capital.

"There is still fighting going on [in Kabul]. We can hear gunfire from the diplomatic area, a VIP part of Kabul where the UN offices and other important buildings are," Azimy said.

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Agence France-Presse: Taliban's 'spring offensive' rocks Afghanistan

Embattled President Hamid Karzai was moved to a safe area and his palace went into lockdown as the capital was hit by a wave of attacks including a failed attempt to target one of his deputies, officials said.

Insurgents armed with heavy machineguns, rocket propelled grenades and suicide vests launched what the Taliban spokesman said was a "coordinated attack" in Kabul and three eastern towns near the capital.

In Kabul the insurgents took up positions in construction sites overlooking government buildings, diplomatic missions and other high profile targets, unleashing a stand-off with security forces throughout the afternoon and evening.

Lutfullah Mashal, a spokesman for the National Directorate of Security (NDS), said Mohammad Karim Khalili, one of Karzai's two deputies was one of the targets of Sunday's attacks.

Mashal said the group of three tasked with attacking Khalili's home in west Kabul was captured before reaching their target.

Kabul They claimed they were linked to the Haqqani Network, he said, a hardcore Taliban branch accused of masterminding most of the high-profile attacks in Kabul and known to have close links to Al-Qaeda.

The attacks will raise fears over the precarious security situation in Afghanistan as NATO prepares to withdraw its 130,000 troops by the end of 2014 and hand responsibility for security to Afghan forces.

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