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Explosions, gun battle break out near peace meeting in Afghanistan

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Peace summit targeted
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: 2 Suspects killed and 1 captured
  • Taliban claims responsibility
  • Rockets and gun battle ensue near peace meeting
  • Afghan President Hamid Karzai continued to speak at meeting after explosions
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Kabul, Afghanistan -- Suspected militants fired rockets, detonated explosives and engaged in an intense gun battle with security forces Wednesday near the site of a jirga, or peace meeting, where Afghan President Hamid Karzai spoke.

Karzai carried on with his speech as the blasts went off. Shortly afterward, Karzai left the event in a heavily fortified convoy.

Even then, gun battles continued in the neighborhoods around the meeting site, said Kabul police official Mohammed Zahir.

One rocket landed a few feet short of the outer fence of the meeting site.

Police later said they had surrounded a home in Kabul where suspected insurgents, believed to be responsible for the attack, were holed up.

Two people, described as suicide bombers, were killed and one was arrested in connection with the attack, Karzai's spokesman said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Four Taliban fighters with suicide vests and heavy weapons tried to attack the meeting in Kabul, said Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid. Afghan forces suffered casualties during the attack, the spokesman said.

The casualty figure could not be immediately confirmed with police.

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The Taliban released a press statement a day before the attack, calling the peace meeting a " foreign scripted peace jirga."

Karzai planned the critical peace gathering with tribal leaders to discuss a reintegration plan for Taliban members who renounce violence and lay down their arms.

But persuading the Taliban to do that - and the process with which to accomplish it - has raised more questions than answers, experts said.

And it has also raised fears about the insurgents wanting to attack the gathering.

"It's not clear whether there's a serious common ground between Karzai and his enemies," said Paul Staniland, who studies international security and insurgent groups at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "All of the reconciliation plans have been somewhat vague about what the ultimate end state is."

CNN's Nic Robertson contributed to this report.

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