Large blast hits diplomatic area of Kabul, 2 killed

Kabul blast

Two men wearing suicide vests blew themselves up near a U.S. base in Kabul early Wednesday, killing two Afghan guards in the heart of a neighborhood filled with foreign forces and embassies despite increased security ahead of a Muslim holy day that last year saw one the capital's deadliest attacks.

The bombers apparently meant to target the U.S. base but were spotted by policemen as they approached and detonated their vests before reaching the gate, police said.

The blast reverberated around Kabul's Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood shortly after 8 a.m. local time. An alarm started going off at the nearby U.S. Embassy, warning staff to take cover. The neighborhood also is home to many high-ranking Afghan officials, international organizations and the headquarters of the international military coalition.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing in an email to reporters.

The attack came as foreign and Afghan forces tightened their watch over the capital ahead of the holy day of Ashoura on Saturday, when Shiite Muslims commemorate the seventh century death of Imam Hussein, the Prophet Muhammad's grandson.

Last year, the commemoration saw the first major sectarian attack since the fall of the Taliban regime. In that strike, a suicide bomber on foot detonated his vest amid scores of worshippers at a Shiite shrine, killing 56 people and wounding more than 160 others.

Attacks in Kabul are relatively rare and more recent strikes have not been particularly deadly, but have shown the continued ability of the insurgents to penetrate the security cordons that surround the city. The last previous attack before Wednesday's strike took place last week, when insurgents fired four rockets into the city, killing one person. The rockets hit near the airport, a private television station and close to a compound used by the Afghan intelligence service.

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