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Kabul Fighting 'Over'

RIA Novosti

11:05 16/04/2012 MOSCOW, April 16 (RIA Novosti) - Fighting between Taliban militants and security forces in the Afghan capital of Kabul ended on Monday, after more than 18 hours of intense gunfire and rocket attacks, al Arabiya television reported, citing government officials.

"The latest information we have about the Afghan parliament area is that the attack is over now and the only insurgent who was resisting has been killed,"said Hashmatullah Stanikzai, a spokesman for Kabul's police chief.

At least 36 militants and eight police officers were killed in the fighting which broke out in the capital's heavily guarded diplomatic area at midday on Sunday, Afghan Interior Minister Besmillah Mohammadi said.

The attack was one of the deadliest in Kabul since the international invasion in 2001.

It comes as Western forces prepare to leave the country under a plan to hand over full responsibility for security to Afghan forces by 2014.

Video footage showed Afghan and Norwegian special forces raid a construction site overlooking a NATO headquarters and several foreign embassies which the militants had been using as a base earlier.

Insurgents also carried out attacks in the provinces of Logar, Paktia and Nangarhar.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the attacks marked the start of a "spring offensive" and that it had been "planned for months."

He said the onslaught was a response to recent claims by NATO commanders that the Taliban was weak and to a series of incidents involving U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

However, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker suggested the fighting may be the work of the Haqqani tribal militant network rather than the Taliban, telling CNN television that the Taliban was not "good enough."

EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton and British Foreign Secretary William Hague have condemned the violence.

The last high-profile attack on Kabul was in September last year, when militants entered construction sites and opened fire on the NATO headquarters and the U.S. Embassy.

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