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Taliban launches deadly attack near Spanish Embassy in Kabul

An assault on a Kabul neighborhood that houses foreign diplomats Friday morning has left several dead and at least seven injured.

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    Members of Afghan Crisis Response Unit (CRU) arrive at the site of a Taliban attack in the Afghan capital of Kabul, Afghanistan December 11, 2015. A loud explosion rocked Kabul on Friday in a heavily protected area close to many foreign embassies and government buildings, with initial police reports suggesting at least three attackers had targeted a guesthouse close to the Spanish embassy.
    REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
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Gunfire was exchanged between Afghan special forces and Taliban fighters after a suicide bomb was detonated near the Spanish Embassy Friday morning in the Shirpur district of Kabul, Afghanistan. This area is home to several foreign embassies and also has an expat community.  

It is unclear whether the Spanish Embassy was the target of the attacks; some initial reports said the attack targeted the embassy, but the Spanish prime minister has denied these claims, according to the BBC.

Two guards were killed, and at least seven others are being treated at a local hospital, including Spanish security personnel whose injuries are not life threatening.

As many as four attackers inside a nearby guesthouse exchanged heavy gunfire with Afghan forces, and were presumed to be wearing suicide vests.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the “suicide attacks.”

“We still do not know how many diplomats or guests might be holed up inside so we are conducting the clearing operation carefully as not to harm any civilians,” Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told NBC News. 

According to eyewitnesses, there was a large blast, followed by gunfire.

“The explosion… shook the entire building and blew out all the glass,” Harun Arsalai, a freelance journalist in Kabul, told NBC. “It blew out all the windows in the front. Shooting erupted in the streets. We were trapped between the shooting… the firefight was all over the area… I would assume there was a lot of assailants.” 

All Spanish Embassy personnel have been evacuated from the site. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is calling the incident a terrorist attack

The attack comes just three days after the Taliban attacked a market bazaar in the southeastern city of Kandahar, killing 50 civilians and wounding an additional 35. Fighting in Kandahar between Afghan security personnel and Taliban fighters reportedly ended after a 24-hour siege.

It is unclear whether the Taliban planned the attacks deliberately to retaliate against Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s recent visit to Pakistan, which occurred during the Kandahar attacks, to strengthen ties with the Pakistanis and discuss ways to reduce the Taliban’s threat in Afghanistan.

The Taliban in Afghanistan have recently joined efforts to unite under their new leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, who is the successor of the deceased Taliban founder and spiritual leader Mullah Mohammad Omar who was discovered to have died two years ago in a hospital in Pakistan.

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