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Taliban kill 20 in trio of Afghan capital attacks
Wed Feb 11, 2009 8:15pm EST
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By Hamid Shalizi
KABUL (Reuters) - Taliban militants killed 20 people in three simultaneous attacks on government buildings inside the Afghan capital on Wednesday, underlining the intensity of the insurgency faced by the Kabul government and its Western allies.
The militants' aim appeared to be to shoot dead as many people as possible before blowing themselves up, a style of attack with similarities to that seen in the Indian city of Mumbai in November.
U.S. President Barack Obama is awaiting a major review of strategy in Afghanistan which he has pledged to make his foreign policy priority, and is expected to sign off on plans to almost double U.S. troop levels to 60,000 and boost development aid.
But as Obama's new regional point man Richard Holbrooke has admitted, Afghanistan will be a "tougher challenge than Iraq."
Holbrooke is due in Kabul on Thursday after visiting Pakistan where Taliban militants train in the tribal regions.
He faces a host of problems, from trying to ensure Pakistan battles the insurgents, encouraging the Afghan government to crack down on corruption and the drugs trade, to trying to ease age-old tensions between India and Pakistan.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has described Afghanistan as America's greatest military challenge.
As if to underline that, separate groups of militants attempted to storm three government buildings in Kabul on or just after 10 a.m. (0530 GMT). All were armed with assault rifles and wearing suicide bomb vests.
One attacker tried to enter the Education Ministry, but was shot dead, Interior Minister Hanif Atmar told a news conference.
Minutes later five militants entered the Justice Ministry after killing two guards. A policeman followed them in and killed one of the attackers while the other four fanned out shooting at everyone in sight.
Ten people were killed before police stormed the building and shot dead the remaining attackers.
Meanwhile in the north of the sprawling city, two suicide bombers entered a prison department building. A guard shot one dead before the second killed him and entered the complex, setting off his explosives and killing seven police.
"In total, 20 people have been killed, 57 have been wounded," Atmar said.
Taliban spokesmen swiftly claimed the attack, saying it was in revenge for the treatment of jailed insurgents.
"SPECTACULAR" ATTACK Continued...
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