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Attack on Afghan Minister Kills 8      08/04 06:11

   

   KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- A bombing attack that targeted Afghanistan's 
acting defense minister killed at least eight people and wounded 20, 
authorities said Wednesday. The deputy minister was not hurt in the attack 
claimed by Taliban insurgents.

   The blast went off late Tuesday in a heavily guarded upscale neighborhood of 
the capital of Kabul. It was followed by a gun battle that also left four 
militants dead, authorities said.

   The casualty toll could rise, Interior Ministry spokesperson Mirwais 
Stanekzai said Wednesday.

   Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in a statement Wednesday claimed 
responsibility for the attack. It came as the insurgent group presses ahead 
with an offensive that is putting pressure on provincial capitals in the south 
and west of the country.

   Mujahid said the attack was revenge for recent attacks by Afghan national 
forces in various provinces that he said caused civilian casualties and 
displacement.

   Stanekzai said it appeared the guesthouse of acting Defense Minister 
Bismillah Khan Mohammadi was targeted in the attack but he was not hurt.

   Mohammadi's Jamiat-e-Islami party was told the minister was not in the 
guesthouse at the time and his family had been safely evacuated.

   All four attackers were shot and killed after five hours of fighting, 
Stanekzai said.

   Stanekzai said the attack took place in the posh Sherpur neighborhood, 
located in a section of the capital known as the Green Zone, where security is 
tight. It is home to several senior government officials.

   Hours after Tuesday night's attack, the Defense Ministry released a video in 
which Mohammadi said his guards had been wounded in a suicide attack. "I assure 
my beloved countrymen that such attacks cannot have any impact on my 
willingness to defend my countrymen and my country," he said.

   Hundreds of residents in the area were moved to safety as security personnel 
carried out house-to-house searches, officials said.

 
 
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