Afghan President Hamid Karzai
Afghan President Hamid Karzai. — Photo by Reuters

KABUL, Afghanistan: President Hamid Karzai acknowledged that the US and Afghan governments have held talks with Taliban emissaries in a bid to end the nation’s nearly 10-year war, even as suicide attackers launched a bold assault in the heart of the country’s capital, killing nine people.

The attack which occurred just blocks from Karzai’s office, shows the parties have a long way to go to reach a political settlement as the Obama administration weighs a major withdrawal of its forces. The White House neither directly confirmed nor denied Karzai’s statement.

Three men wearing camouflage fatigues that are frequently worn by Afghan soldiers stormed a police station near the presidential palace, with one of them detonating an explosives vest just outside the gates as two others rushed inside and began firing, an Interior Ministry statement said.

The crackle of gunfire echoed through the usually bustling streets for about two hours before security forces killed the two remaining attackers. Insurgents killed three police officers, one intelligence agent and five civilians in the attack, according to the ministry statement.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack in a text message to The Associated Press.

Attacks in the Afghan capital have been relatively rare, although violence has increased since the May 2 killing of Osama bin Laden in a US raid in Pakistan and the start of the Taliban’s annual spring offensive.

The last major attack in Kabul took place late last month when a suicide bomber wearing an Afghan police uniform infiltrated the main Afghan military hospital, killing six medical students. A month before that, a suicide attacker in an army uniform sneaked past security at the Afghan Defense Ministry, killing three people.

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