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Suicide bombers target Afghan intelligence agency, police

The insurgents launched four coordinated attacks today in the space of a few hours.

By Heidi Vogt and Rahim FaiezAssociated Press / February 24, 2013

A security official stands guard the scene of a suicide car bomb attack which killed and injured several people at the National Directorate of Security in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Sunday. A series of early morning attacks hit eastern Afghanistan Sunday, with three separate suicide bombings in outlying provinces and a shootout between security forces and a would-be attacker in the capital city of Kabul.

Rahmat Gul/AP

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Kabul, Afghanistan

Suicide bombers targeted Afghanistan's intelligence agency and other security forces in four coordinated attacks in the heart of Kabul and outlying areas on Sunday, officials said, a bloody reminder of the insurgency's reach nearly 12 years into the war.

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The brazen assaults, which occurred within a three hour timespan, were the latest to strike Afghan forces, who have suffered higher casualties this year as US and other foreign troops gradually take a back seat and shift responsibility for security to the government.

The deadliest attack occurred just after sunrise  a suicide car bombing at the gate of the National Directorate of Security compound in Jalalabad, 125 kilometers (78 miles) east of Kabul.

Guards shot and killed the driver but he managed to detonate the explosives-packed vehicle, killing two intelligence agents and wounding three others, according to a statement by the intelligence agency. Regional government spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzai confirmed the casualty toll and said the building was damaged in the attack.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the bombing.

A guard also shot and killed a man in an SUV filled with dynamite that was targeting an NDS building on a busy street in Kabul, not far from NATO headquarters. The explosives in the back of the vehicle were defused. Blood stained the driver's seat and the ground where security forces dragged out the would-be attacker.

Shortly before the Jalalabad attack, a suicide attacker detonated a minivan full of explosives at a police checkpoint in Puli Alam, on the main highway between Kabul and Logar province. One policeman was killed and two others were wounded, along with a bystander, according to the NDS.

Also in Logar province, which is due south of Kabul, a man wearing a suicide vest was stopped by police as he tried to force his way into the police headquarters for the Baraki Barak district, said Din Mohammad Darwesh, the provincial government spokesman.

He detonated his vest while being searched, wounding one policeman, according to Darwesh and the NDS.

"Once again the enemies of peace and stability in Afghanistan ... staged coordinated attacks against the Afghan security forces and the Afghan people," the intelligence agency said.

The attacks were a reminder that insurgents are still on the offensive even as US and other international forces prepare to end their combat mission by the end of 2014.

Afghan soldiers and police are easier targets than their NATO allies because their checkpoints and bases are less fortified.

More than 1,200 Afghan soldiers were killed in 2012 compared to more than 550 the previous year, according to data compiled by the Washington-based Brookings Institution.

US troop deaths, meanwhile, declined overall from 404 in 2011 to 295 in 2012.

* Associated Press writer Kim Gamel contributed to this report.

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