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Election Commission In Kabul Under Attack By The Taliban

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[March 29, 2014]  (Reuters)  Suicide bombers targeted buildings near the Independent Election Commission headquarters in Kabul on Saturday, staff and police said, the latest in a spate of attacks ahead of next week's presidential election.

"I am here... the attack is going on around the IEC compound," spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor told Reuters by telephone from a safe room inside the building.

An explosion was followed by gunfire, IEC staff and police said.

The IEC compound is close to offices used by the United Nations Office Complex in Afghanistan (UNOCA) and other international organizations.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, the second launched against an IEC office in the capital this week as the Islamist insurgency seeks to derail the April 5 election it calls a Western-backed "sham".

Noor said that IEC personnel were safe and that Afghan security forces were in control of their building.

Police said that a nearby building that was privately owned had been targeted for reasons that remained unclear.

"We can only confirm that a number of armed insurgents have entered a building close to the Independent Election Commission," said Kabul's police chief spokesman Hashmat Stanekzai.

Another IEC official told Reuters that staff inside the compound feared the neighboring building might be used by insurgents to fire on their headquarters because it was several stories high.

(Reporting by Jessica Donati and Mirwais Harooni; editing by Richard Borsuk and Jeremy Laurence)

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