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Security stepped up for Holbrooke

HEAVILY armed government troops thronged the streets of Afghanistan's capital yesterday, stepping up security before the arrival of the new United States envoy a day after Taliban attacks showed how easily the city's defenses can be breached.

Richard Holbrooke, US President Barack Obama's recently appointed envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, arrived yesterday for his first trip to the country. Security would have already been high for such a visit, but Holbrooke arrived following one of the Taliban's most audacious attacks on the capital.

Meanwhile, a suicide bomber yesterday blew himself up outside a police station in Sharan, the capital of the eastern Paktika province, killing an officer and wounding 10 others, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

The Taliban regularly target Afghan and foreign troops with suicide and roadside attacks, and other violent incidents have already spiked this year.

On Wednesday Taliban militants killed 20 people in a coordinated assault on three government buildings. Armed with guns, grenades and suicide vests, they stormed through barricades at the Justice Ministry in the heart of Kabul and a corrections department building to the north. One attacker was killed before he could force his way into a third building, the Education Ministry.

The attack served as a reminder of the challenges facing Obama as he increases America's focus - and troop levels - in Afghanistan. The new administration has promised up to 30,000 new troops.


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