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Car bomb explodes at NATO headquarters in Kabul

A SUICIDE car bomb exploded near the main gate of NATO's headquarters in the Afghan capital early today, killing and wounding an unknown number of people, an official said.

Bloodied and dazed Afghans wandered the street after the massive blast. Children - many of whom congregate outside the NATO gate to sell gum to Westerners, were among the wounded.

NATO's headquarters is on the same street as the US Embassy and presidential palace. Afghanistan's Transportation Ministry lies across the street.

Capt. Elizabeth Mathias, a US spokeswoman for the NATO-led mission, said the explosion occurred near the gate of NATO's International Security Assistance Force.

Several vehicles were destroyed at the site of the blast, said Mohammad Zahir Azimi, spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense. He said an unknown number of people were killed and wounded, adding he feared the toll would be high.

NATO headquarters has several large, cement blocks and steel gates that prevent anyone from reaching the entrance. It appeared the bomber was not able to breach those barriers, and the damage to NATO headquarters may have been minimized, a reporter at the scene said.

The blast rattled the capital and sent a black plume of smoke skyward.

The attack of a high-profile, international target in Kabul comes less than a week before Afghans around the country are to vote for president and provincial councils.

Afghanistan has braced for attacks because of the election, which the Taliban have warned people not to participate in. International workers in the country planned to work from home over the next week, and some were encouraged to leave the country.


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