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Taliban kills 2 troops; targeted defense chiefs

An insurgent dressed as an Afghan soldier opened fire Monday in the Defense Ministry, killing two soldiers in an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate the Afghan and French defense ministers, officials said.

The attacker, who was also armed with explosives, struck the ministry before noon, ahead of a joint news conference the ministers had scheduled.

He was fatally shot by Afghan soldiers before he could detonate his explosives, said Gen. Mohammed Zahir Azimi, a Defense Ministry spokesman. Seven soldiers were wounded in the attack, Azimi said.

Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak was at the ministry at the time but was not injured, although his assistant was wounded, ministry officials said.

French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet had not yet arrived at the time of the attack, French officials said. He was about 25 miles north of Kabul, meeting with French troops in Bagram, according to a spokesman for French forces.

No NATO troops were injured or involved in responding to the attack, spokesmen said.

Longuet arrived Sunday and had been in the eastern provinces meeting with French troops, some of the 3,850 deployed in Afghanistan as part of the NATO mission.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said Longuet was targeted because France is among those "actively a part of the invasion. The leaders of all these countries are our targets."

The attack is the latest of several in recent days by Taliban fighters who infiltrated government positions or posed as members of Afghan security forces. On Saturday, five U.S. and four Afghan soldiers were killed in a suicide attack by a Taliban bomber dressed as a soldier who infiltrated a joint Afghan-U.S. base on the edge of eastern Laghman province.

Mujahid said Taliban fighters have succeeded in penetrating the ranks of Afghan security forces and would carry out similar attacks in the near future.

U.S. military officials say they are responding by training counterintelligence agents to track down sleeper agents within the Afghan security forces.

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