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Explosion and gunfire shake Kabul

There has been a large explosion in the centre of the Afghan capital, Kabul, followed by heavy gunfire.

Afghan Channel One TV quoted police as saying a group of assailants had entered the Directorate of the Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF).

A guesthouse used by staff of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) was hit in the blast, and two of its employees were injured.

A Taliban spokesman told the BBC that the guesthouse had been targeted.

He said the attack was directed against foreigners paid by the CIA who were training Afghans at the National Security Directorate (NDS) intelligence agency.

Channel One said three gunmen were fighting security forces from within the guesthouse.

It reported earlier that some of the attackers had taken up positions in the APPF building, and that at least one suicide bomber had entered.

Kabul police chief Gen Ayub Salangi told the BBC that at least two suicide attackers had been killed and two assailants were still fighting.

"We are dealing with a well co-ordinated attack," he said.

"Afghan forces will deal with them."

Some reports said there had been several blasts. Ambulances were shown heading for the scene of the attack, in a central part of Kabul where foreign workers are based.

Smoke was seen over the centre of the city and the blast was felt several kilometres away.

Shopkeepers in the area said the explosion had shattered their windows. Part of Kabul was cordoned off.

The Taliban announced a "spring offensive" in April, saying it would target foreign military bases and diplomatic areas.

Last week another Islamist militant group, Hezb-e-Islami, said it had carried out an attack on a military convoy in Kabul in which at least 15 people were killed and dozens injured.

In the last major attack in Kabul before that, a suicide bomber blew himself up near the defence ministry, killing nine people.

Most international troops are scheduled to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014, and Afghan forces are due to take responsibility for the security of the whole country in the next few months, for the first time since 1992.

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