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Rocket attack in Kabul wounds at least 10, triggers embassy lockdowns

KABUL (Reuters) - More than a dozen rockets struck Kabul on Tuesday, wounding at least ten people, including children, prompting some foreign embassies to order a lockdown, officials and sources in the Afghan capital said.

The identity of the attackers was unknown, though an interior ministry spokesman said two suspects had been arrested.

The attack comes at time when the United States is encouraging peace talks between the government and the Taliban, while preparing to withdraw the last U.S. troops to end almost 19 years of war.

Smoke billowed, alarms rang out and shrapnel flew, said Reuters witnesses who heard at least four rockets landing near the Green Zone area, home to many foreign embassies and NATO headquarters.

“The warning alarm sounded two to three seconds before impact and then there was the sound of the first rocket, then, soon afterwards, another much louder one with a huge boom and shrapnel and bits of concrete fell,” one Reuters witness said.

The security scare in the capital came as Afghanistan celebrated its national independence day, marking the end of British suzerainty over the country in 1919.

“Several rockets were fired from two vehicles,” said Tariq Arian, an interior ministry spokesman.

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He later added that fourteen rockets landed in different parts of the city and that two people had been arrested in connection with the attack.

Four children were among the ten injured, he said.

A senior Western security official told Reuters the diplomatic area was quickly placed under lockdown after the blasts, as workers in embassies took cover in safe rooms.

“All diplomatic officials in embassies in the Green Zone have been moved to safe rooms in the diplomatic district until clearance orders,” a senior Western security official added.

A diplomatic source told Reuters one rocket hit close to a mosque just outside the tightly-guarded diplomatic enclave.

Reporting by Hamid Shalizi, Abdul Qadir Sediqi, Orooj Hakimi and Rupam Jain; Writing by Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Kim Coghill, Clarence Fernandez and Simon Cameron-Moore

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