Kabul: Taliban militants targeted the presidential palace and national CIA office in central Kabul on Monday, with gunfire and explosions erupting at one of the gates of the complex in the Afghan capital.
       
Blasts and gunshots shook the city for an hour after the first explosion at about 6:30 am local time, sending smoke into the air in a high-security area of Kabul that also contains many embassies and official buildings.
       
Police said that three or four attackers had approached one entrance to the sprawling palace area and had fled their explosives-laden car before detonating it.
    
Kabul police chief Mohammad Ayoub Salangi told reporters at the scene that all the militants had died and no security forces personnel or civilians were killed, giving no further details.
       
A palace source said that the expansive grounds around the building had not been breached. President Hamid Karzai, who lives in the palace, was due to hold a press event on Tuesday morning and journalists had been asked to report to the building.
       
All roads to the palace are permanently closed off, with several rings of heavy security around the complex keeping people far away.
       
"A big group of attackers have struck against the CIA office as the main target and also the palace and the defence ministry nearby," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.
       
The US embassy sounded its 'duck and cover' alarm drill and the US-led NATO military coalition said on its Twitter account: "Small arms fire and multiple explosions reported in Kabul." The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks.


       
The last major attack in Kabul was on June 11 when the Taliban insurgents claimed responsibility for a suicide car bomb outside the Supreme Court that killed at least 15 civilians.
    
Tuesday's attack came during a visit to Kabul by US envoy James Dobbins after a diplomatic bust-up over the Taliban's new office in Qatar that was intended as a first step towards a peace deal to end 12 years of fighting in Afghanistan.

(Agencies)

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