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August 16, 2009

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NATO bomb blast kills 7

A SUICIDE car bomb exploded yesterday outside the main gate of NATO's headquarters five days before Afghanistan's presidential election, killing seven and wounding 91 in the biggest attack in the Afghan capital Kabul in six months.

The bomber evaded several rings of Afghan police and detonated his explosives on the doorstep of the international military headquarters, an assault possibly aimed at sending the message that the Taliban can attack anywhere as Afghans gear up for their second-ever direct presidential election.

Militants have warned Afghans not to vote and have threatened voting sites.

The NATO headquarters, where top commander US General Stanley McChrystal is based, sits beside the US Embassy and shares the same street as the presidential palace. The explosion was the first major attack in Kabul since February, when eight Taliban militants struck three government buildings simultaneously in the heart of the city, an assault that killed 20 people and the eight assailants.

Afghanistan has braced for attacks ahead of the election.

US, NATO and Afghan troops were working to protect voting sites, particularly in regions where militants hold sway.

President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack and said Afghans knew the importance of Thursday's election.

"The enemies of Afgha-nistan, by conducting such attacks, are trying to create fear among the people as we get close to the election," Karzai said.

He said Afghans "are not afraid of any threats, and they will go to cast their votes."

Bloodied and dazed Afghans wandered the street after the blast, which rattled the capital and sent a black plume of smoke skyward.

The Taliban claimed responsibility and said the target was NATO headquarters and the US Embassy.


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