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Afghanistan

Suicide bombers hit Afghan police station after Kerry trip

Several people have attacked a police base in eastern Afghanistan, killing five officers. Tuesday's attack came hours after US Secretary of State John Kerry and Afghan President Hamid Karzai sought to bury the hatchet.

Afghan police said on Tuesday that a group of at least seven people attacked a police base in Jalalabad. A police spokesman said the attack began when one suicide bomber detonated a vehicle just outside the base.

"The first one detonated a car bomb; two others entered the base and detonated themselves and the remaining four were shot dead," Hazrat Hussain Mashriqiwal, the Nangarhar province police spokesman, told the AFP news agency.

The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for the attack.

Another Afghan police spokesman later said that five officers were killed and a further four wounded. Jalalabad is situated on the main A1 highway that links the Afghan capital Kabul with the Pakistan border regions, where many militants are based. The city has been a frequent site of violence.

Kerry and Karzai talk in private

Late on Monday, President Hamid Karzai held private talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry, who made an impromptu visit to Afghanistan on the day the US handed over control of Bagram prison to the authorities in Kabul.

"Today was a good day for Afghanistan," Karzai, who considered control of the prison a question of national sovereignty, told reporters after his talks with Kerry on Monday. "Bagram prison was handed over to the Afghan government … Finally after many years of effort we have reached a deal."

Recent comments from Karzai suggesting that Taliban attacks were "at the service of America" were widely interpreted to suggest collusion between the two sides, something Karzai and Kerry both denied on Monday.

"I am confident the president does not believe the US has any interest except to see the Taliban come to the table to make peace and that we are completely cooperative with the government of Aghanistan with respect to the protection of their efforts and their people," Kerry said.

Karzai, for his part, said his televised March 9 speech sought to say that if the Taliban wanted US and ISAF troops to leave Afghanistan, bomb attacks were not a productive approach. He was speaking after bombings in the capital Kabul and the city of Khost.

International troops in Afghanistan are scheduled to stop all combat operations by the end of 2014 with a contingent remaining behind to train domestic security forces. To that end, Australia announced on Tuesday that it would close a key international base at Tarin Kot in the southern province of Uruzgan by the end of this year.

Defense Minister Stephen Smith said he expected that "by the end of the year, we will see at least 1,000 Australian personnel return home." Some 1,650 Australian soldiers are currently stationed in Afghanistan as part of the ISAF-led mission. Since the conflict began in 2001, 39 Australian soldiers have died in Afghanistan.

msh/jm (AFP, AP, dpa)