Taliban gunmen launched a brazen assault on the center of Kabul yesterday, with suicide bombers blowing themselves up at several locations and militants battling security forces from inside a shopping center engulfed in flames.


The insurgents failed in an apparent attempt to seize government buildings but demonstrated their ability to cause mayhem at a time when President Barack Obama is trying to rally support for an expanded invasion.


It was the worst attack on the city in nearly a year and came as Afghan President Hamid Karzai was swearing in cabinet members inside the heavily fortified presidential palace.


Gunfire and loud explosions shook the city and a huge column of smoke poured out of the shopping center, where gunmen battled security forces for hours. Sporadic fighting continued in some areas although Karzai said the city was back under control. Other fighters continued battling in a cinema, with the last fighting ceasing nearly six hours after the first attack.