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Suicide bombers attack NATO base in Afghan east
KABUL (Reuters) - At least five insurgents were killed when suicide bombers attacked a NATO-run base in eastern Afghanistan on Friday, NATO and Afghan officials said, the latest assault in the volatile Taliban stronghold.
A spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said the attack was launched on a forward operating base (FOB) in Gardez city in Paktia province, not far from Afghanistan's porous border with Pakistan.
Rising violence and casualties are of deep concern in Washington, where President Barack Obama is due to conduct a strategy review of the increasingly unpopular war in December.
Afghanistan is under renewed scrutiny after last weekend's parliamentary election was hit by violence and widespread claims of fraud, the second flawed poll in 13 months.
The Taliban and other insurgents such as the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network have launched a series of brazen assaults on foreign bases and government buildings in the past year in a bid to topple the government and force out foreign troops.
"The attack began when a vehicle, followed closely by four suicide vest-wearing insurgents, attempted to breach a fortified area of the base," ISAF said in a statement. It said the vehicle was destroyed and the remaining attackers killed as they fled.
There were no ISAF casualties, the statement said.
U.S. troops make up most of the ISAF force in Paktia and a U.S.-run provincial reconstruction team is based in Gardez.
Rohullah Samon, a spokesman for the Paktia governor, said an Afghan security guard and an Afghan soldier were wounded.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said 10 of the Islamist group's fighters were involved and said some had managed the make it inside the base. The Taliban often make exaggerated or unconfirmed claims about such attacks.
In late August, foreign and Afghan troops killed 24 insurgents as they fought off pre-dawn attacks in neighboring Khost province on the Pakistan border.
Violence is at its worst since the Taliban were ousted by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in 2001, with military and civilian casualties at record levels as the Taliban spread the insurgency into once stable areas in the north and west.
In the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, a child was killed and 27 civilians wounded when a suicide car bomber attacked a passing ISAF convoy, a spokesman for the governor of Balkh province said.
There was no indication of casualties among the ISAF convoy and it appeared the attack was mistimed, hitting the bus instead, the spokesman said.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack.
(Reporting by Paul Tait and Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Miral Fahmy)
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