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Suicide bombers target guest-house in central Kabul

Two suicide bombers attacked a residential compound frequented by foreigners in central Kabul killing at least five Afghan civilians. A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack.

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REUTERS - Two suicide bombers killed up to five Afghans in an attack on a residential area of central Kabul on Tuesday, Afghan police and security sources said, only hours after a U.N. report detailed a sharp rise in civilian casualties.

One police source said one of the bombers had blown himself up at the gate of a compound used by foreigners, killing three Afghan passers-by and two security guards.

He said the second bomber had managed to get inside the compound before detonating an explosives-packed vest he was wearing but caused no further casualties.

A government security source said the bodies of at least three Afghans could be seen close to the site of the attack. The source said the target appeared to be an American company next to a guest-house but had no further details.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said four suicide bombers equipped with hand grenades, rockets and assault rifles had launched the attack.

"They have attacked a guest-house and a security company and fighting is going on," he told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.

Police and government officials said there were no more than two attackers and that no foreigners were hurt.

A second police source said a guest-house used by foreigners had been the target but Interior Ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary said that was not yet clear.

"There have been casualties but I do not know how many people," he told Reuters.

"It was a suicide attack. The situation is under control," Bashary said.

Civilian deaths

The attack came only hours after the United Nations mission in Afghanistan released a report that said civilian casualties had risen 31 percent in the first six months of the year,
compared with the same period in 2009.

More than three-quarters of those casualties were blamed on the Taliban and other insurgents battling foreign forces and the Afghan government.

Violence across Afghanistan has reached its highest levels since the Taliban were ousted by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in late 2001, with the death toll for foreign troops also hitting record levels.

Some 150,000 foreign troops are squared off against the insurgents.

Commando-style attacks such as Tuesday's are not uncommon, especially against government and foreign targets in more remote areas in the south and east. In October 2009, five foreign U.N. staff were killed in a similar attack on a Kabul guest house.

A suicide bomber killed four Afghans in an attack apparently aimed at a convoy of foreign forces in Kabul on July 18, and insurgents embarrassed Afghan officials by firing
rockets at a major peace conference in the capital in June.

In February, two suicide bombers killed 14 people and wounded 32 when they blew themselves up near Kabul's biggest shopping centre and a hotel.

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