String of attacks rock Afghan capital, provinces

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Taliban insurgents struck the heart of the Afghan capital and three eastern cities Sunday, firing automatic weapons and grenades at embassies, government buildings and NATO bases as they launched the spring fighting season with the boldest and most complex assault in years.The multi-pronged attacks show the Taliban and their allies are far from beaten and underscored the security challenge facing government forces as U.S. and NATO forces draw down. The majority of international combat troops are scheduled to leave by the end of 2014.The first blasts rocked the diplomatic quarter of Kabul on Sunday afternoon, and soon gunshots and rocket-propelled grenade fire were ringing out across the city. Smoke rose over the skyline as sirens wailed. A loudspeaker at the U.S. Embassy could be heard barking: \Duck and cover. Move away from the windows.\One police officer and 17 militants were killed in the attacks, the most widespread in the Afghan capital since an assault on the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters last September blamed on the Haqqani network, a Pakistan-based insurgent group allied with the Taliban. Fighting continued more than 12 hours after the first blasts, with explosions echoing into the night.The sophistication and firepower of the latest strikes, as well as the high-profile government and foreign targets, bore the hallmarks of the attack last fall and others carried out by Haqqani insurgents.As in the earlier attack, armed insurgents took over half-built buildings Sunday and used them to fire down on nearby embassies and bases. In the streets of Kabul's Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood, where a NATO base and a number of embassies, including the U.S. Embassy, are located, residents scrambled for cover as gunfire rained down from all directions.\I saw two Land Cruisers pull up and two militants jumped from the car

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