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Taliban begin spring offensive as blasts go on in Afghan cities

By Abdul Haleem, Yangtze Yan (Xinhua)

08:45, April 16, 2012

KABUL, April 15 (Xinhua) -- The much-predicted Taliban spring offensive began Sunday as the armed outfit launched multiple suicide attacks and gun shots in several Afghan cities including the fortified capital city Kabul.

A group of insurgents including some suicide bombers, according to police and eye witnesses, sneaked into a luxury hotel named Kabul Star in the embassy area which was also located next to a United Nations (UN) office and some government institutes. The firing begun at 01:35 p.m. local time (0905GMT), followed by several bombings in three more strategic places including the parliament.

In a statement, Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi insisted that two or three terrorists entered a building in the 10th precinct and two more terrorists entered a building in the 7th precinct to disrupt law and order, saying police have beefed up to eliminate the attackers.

Sediqi said that two attackers have been killed. Kabul police said two would-be suicide bombers were arrested.

All the roads leading to Kabul city have been blocked by police and all streets are deserted, an eyewitness Farukh Shah told Xinhua, saying police do not allow any pedestrian to walk on streets.

Shortly, Zabihullah Mujahid who claims to speak for the Taliban outfit, in talks with media via telephone from unknown location, claimed responsibility for the multiple attacks, saying the Taliban had launched "Spring Offensive" and targeted government interests in Kabul, Logar, Nangarhar and Paktia provinces inflicting huge casualties.

He also stressed that the gun battle with Afghan and NATO-led forces is going on.

Xinhua photographer Ahmad Masoud has seen four bodies lying on street near to the Kabul Star hotel.

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