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Explosion, gunfire at Afghan parliament

The Taliban set off a car bomb in front of the Afghan parliament on Monday, and attempted to storm the building during a lawmakers' session, police said. The militants were pushed out and killed by security forces.

The Taliban launched a group attack Monday on the parliament building in downtown Kabul, police sources say. Live television footage showed Afghanistan MPs running for cover in the smoke-filled building after a large detonation, with gunshots heard at the scene.

"A suicide bomber blew himself up just outside the parliament building and several fighters took positions in a building close to parliament," said Ebadullah Karimi, spokesman for Kabul police.

Afghan

security officials

said all lawmakers were secure.

The seven militiamen who attacked the parliament are dead, according to the police.

Two people were killed in the attack, including a child. At least 18 civilians, including two women and two children, were injured in the attack, Health Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ismail Kahousi said.

"It was a huge blast that shook the building and shattered windows. We are right now in a safe place," said parliamentarian Shukria Barekzai.

Taliban holed up

The attack began with a car bomb explosion near the entrance, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi. Gunmen then attempted to penetrate the high-security compound but were pushed back, he added.

After their attempts failed, the Taliban had taken refuge in a nearby building under construction, Sediqqi said.

The explosion happened during the session to confirm the appointment of the new defense minister, Masoom Stanekzai.

'Affront to democracy'

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani condemned the Taliban's actions shortly after the attack.

"Targeting innocent people in the holy month of Ramadan is a clear act of hostility against the religion of Islam," Ghani said in a statement from his office.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) also criticized the attack, stating it was a "clear and deliberate affront to democracy in Afghanistan."

Almost 1,000 civilians were killed in Afghanistan during the first four months of the year, according to the UN. Earlier, the militants rejected requests from senior Afghan clerics to

halt attacks

during the holy month of Ramadan, which this year falls in the middle of the Taliban's spring offensive.

NATO formally ended its combat mission in December 2014 after more than a decade fighting the Taliban. Approximately 12,500 US troops have stayed in the country to train and support local security personnel.

ls/dj/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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