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Afghanistan: Seven Dead After Clash In Kabul With Suspected Taliban

An Afghan police officer stands outside the house in Kabul where security forces clashed with suspected Taliban militants (AFP) Seven people are reported to have beeen killed overnight after Afghan security forces clashed with suspected Taliban fighters in Kabul.

Afghanistan's national intelligence chief, Amrullah Saleh, said the operation at a house in the west of the capital targeted what he described as a "terrorist cell." Saleh said the dead included two "terrorists," one woman, whom he said had come "to carry out a suicide attack," one child, and three Afghan intelligence agents.

Saleh said soldiers surrounded the house but that those inside refused to surrender. In the end, Saleh said, Afghan security forces blew up the house. He said the woman, who was not Afghan, had planned to carry out a suicide attack, adding that security forces suspect the militants had "intended to use the child as a suicide bomber."

A Taliban spokesman confirmed two militants were killed in the fighting, along with the wife and daughter of one of the militants. The Taliban said the dead fighters had planned and helped to carry out the April 27 attack against a military parade in Kabul. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, foreign dignitaries, and other Afghan officials were in attendance at the parade, which was marking the victory of Afghan mujahedin fighters against the Afghan communist government 16 years ago.

Karzai was unharmed, but three other people watching the parade -- including an Afghan lawmaker, a 10-year-old boy, and a tribal leader -- were killed, along with three militants.

Saleh said the plan to attack the parade had been hatched in Pakistan's volatile tribal regions, but said there is no evidence that Pakistan's government or intelligence services were involved.

He added that Afghan security forces also have arrested eight other militants allegedly involved in providing logistics and weapons to the parade attackers, while a third raid against suspects is continuing in southeastern Kabul.

Ordinary Afghans say the incidents in Kabul this week have raised concerns about the ability of Afghan security forces to protect them.

"We are afraid of this situation because of all these threats against the president, cabinet members, and our nation," says Kabul resident Khan Wali.

"What has happened in front of this huge security force -- rockets being fired or other things -- in fact, this worries all Kabul residents," says Iqbal Shah, another resident of the capital.

Opposition lawmakers like Ramazan Bashardost have been complaining in parliament about the performance of the interior and defense ministries.

"There is no security force in Afghanistan that people trust," Bashardost says. "If you pay attention to [the April 27] attack, the security forces fled from the site before ordinary people did. This shows that our security force doesn't have the talent to ensure the safety of the people."

The Taliban appears to have become increasingly successful at recruiting new, young fighters in southern and southeastern Afghanistan during the last two years. But the violence this week in the heart of Kabul marks the most brazen attempts by Taliban fighters to assert their presence in the Afghan capital since the collapse of the Taliban regime in late 2001.