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Militants kill 10 Afghan soldiers in attacks

Taliban militants struck at Afghan security forces, storming an army recruiting center in the north and ambushing a bus carrying army officers in the capital — the first major attack in Kabul in months.

At least 10 Afghan security forces were killed in the two attacks, while the storming of the recruiting center in the northern province of Kunduz led to a fierce firefight lasting at least five hours, officials said. Both operations were claimed by the Taliban.

In Kabul, two insurgents strapped with explosives ambushed a bus carrying Afghan army officers to work during the morning rush hour on the outskirts of the capital, killing five and wounding nine, said Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi.

The two attackers first opened fire on the bus before one of them detonated his explosives near the vehicle. Soldiers shot the second dead, Azimi said.

The Afghan capital has been relatively peaceful for several months aside from some scattered attacks with few casualties. The last major attack in the Kabul was a suicide bombing against a Nato convoy in May that killed 18 people, including six Nato troops — three American colonels and a Canadian colonel among them.

A witness, Hamidullah Khan, said the gunmen ambushed the bus as it was heading down Jalalabad Road, a main route into the city center.

"The army vehicles were passing this road and then the Taliban or some sort of insurgents started shooting at them," Khan said.

Most of the fighting in Afghanistan has been concentrated in the south. An internal review of President Barack Obama's year-old war strategy unveiled Thursday noted progress against Taliban momentum, particularly in southern areas which saw a surge of international troop levels. But violence has increased elsewhere in the country this year — which has become the deadliest in the nearly 10-year war for foreign troops.

Nato said an international service member died in a bomb attack in the south Sunday, bringing the total number of foreign troops killed in Afghanistan in 2010 to 690, according to an Associated Press count. Previously the worst year of war was 2009, which saw 502 foreign troops killed.

Other news organizations count deaths suffered by service members assigned elsewhere as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, which includes operations in the Philippines, the Horn of Africa and at the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The Obama administration's review of the war was mostly upbeat, although it suggest tough combat will continue for years and says gains made could be reversed.

The Afghan forces, which must take over responsibility for security in the country if international troops are to pull out, are frequently targeted.

In Sunday's attack in Kunduz, four militants stormed an army recruitment center at daybreak, with two managing to detonate their suicide vests, the Defense Ministry said in a statement. The initial assault killed three Afghan soldiers and two police officers, the ministry said.

At least one of the attackers survived and fierce fighting broke out inside the compound and the gunbattle continued for several hours, provincial deputy governor Hamdullah Danishi said.

Danishi said initial reports indicated the attackers were dressed in army uniforms. Those killed all died just outside the center, he said, adding that 20 recent recruits were also wounded in the attack.

The Kunduz assault came a day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited her country's troops stationed in the province — a trip referred to by Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid in his claim of responsibility for the two attacks.

"The purpose of her trip was to give morale to her soldiers. But today the successful attack is shaking the hearts of the occupation soldiers," Mujahid said.

President Hamid Karzai condemned the assaults.

Separately in the south, a roadside bomb in the province of Kandahar blew up a passing civilian car, killing the driver and wounding four children, said Panjwai district chief Haji Baran.