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Bomb Explodes Near NATO Headquarters In Kabul

A suicide bomber has blown himself up near NATO headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan. There are conflicting reports, but The Associated Press cites the police, saying at least six people were killed. The International Security Assistance Force, the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, says on Twitter that there have been no reports of ISAF casualties.

"Pieces of flesh and splattered blood lay on the street near the base, where small bodies were seen being lifted into ambulances," witnesses tell Reuters.

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson tells our Newscast unit "some of the dead are believed to be street children hawking trinkets." She adds:

"A senior Afghan police official says the bomber was about 14 years old. The teen detonated his explosives vest near the Italian Embassy, which is in a heavily guarded diplomatic quarter across from the NATO-led coalition's headquarters."

The explosion occurred near the entrance of Camp Eggers, Reuters reports, which houses about 2,500 coalition trainers.

The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters: "One of our mujahideen targeted an important intelligence office used for recruiting Americans and Afghans for spying."

In a statement, ISAF says, "Attacks like these exploit vulnerable individuals, coercing them into committing horrible acts." It adds:

"If these reports [of the attacker being a teen] are true, by taking advantage of an impressionable child to carry out this attack, the insurgents display cowardice. Forcing underage youth to do their dirty work again proves the insurgency's despicable tactics."

Contrary to Afghan officials' reports, the Taliban says the bomber was 28, according to the AP.

The attack occurred amid tightened security in Kabul due to celebrations commemorating one of Afghanistan's most famous anti-Taliban heroes. Northern Alliance Commander Ahmad Shah Massoud was killed in an al-Qaida suicide bombing just two days before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S.

Security in Afghanistan continues to be a point of contention. After a wave of attacks on NATO forces by their Afghan counterparts, the U.S. military suspended training of new Afghan Local Police recruits. Last week, Sarhaddi Nelson reported that hundreds of Afghan soldiers had been arrested or discharged.

On Friday, the U.S. State Department designated the Haqqani network a terrorist organization. The group, operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan, has been blamed for a series of attacks on U.S. troops, as we reported yesterday.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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