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Taliban truck bomb rocks hotel for foreigners in Kabul

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A massive Taliban truck bomb struck a hotel for foreigners on the outskirts of Kabul early Monday, officials said, just days after the deadliest attack in the Afghan capital for 15 years.

There was no immediate word on casualties from the powerful bombing, which occurred close to a military base next to Kabul’s international airport, and rattled windows several kilometres (miles) away.

The attack on Northgate, a heavily guarded compound for foreign contractors which was previously attacked in July 2013, underscores the worsening security situation as the Taliban ramp up their annual summer offensive.

“A truck packed with explosives struck the entrance of Northgate,” an Afghan security source told AFP, without offering any further details.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said insurgents armed with rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons blasted their way into the compound after the truck bomb went off.

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He claimed that more than 100 “American invaders” were killed and wounded in the assault, which began around 1:30 am (2100 GMT Sunday). The Taliban are routinely known to exaggerate the toll from their attacks.

Afghan commandos cordoned off all arterial roads leading to Northgate, with erratic grenade explosions and gunfire coming from the scene after daybreak, local TV station Tolo said.

It added that NATO special forces were overseeing the clearance operation at the Northgate, a luxury enclave which had been fortified with blast walls, watchtowers and sniffer dogs.

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The hotel was not immediately reachable by telephone.

Tremors from the powerful explosion, which was preceded by a power outage, were felt across the city.

The assault comes as the Taliban ramp up their annual summer offensive after a brief lull during the holy fasting month of Ramadan, which ended in early July.

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– Growing insecurity –

A chillingly similar Taliban attack on the compound in July 2013 — a truck bomb followed by a gun siege — killed nine people, including four Nepalese and one Briton.

Monday’s attack comes after twin bombings left 80 people dead in the Afghan capital on July 23, in the deadliest attack in the city since the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001.

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The bombings tore through crowds of minority Shiite Hazara protesters as they gathered to demand that a major power line be routed through the central province of Bamiyan, one of the most deprived areas of Afghanistan.

That attack claimed by the Islamic State group, which is less powerful than the Taliban but is making gradual inroads into Afghanistan.

Afghan forces backed by US airstrikes have since intensified an offensive against IS jihadists in their eastern stronghold of Nangarhar.

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The latest attacks in Kabul are a grim indicator of growing insecurity in Afghanistan, which has resulted in large civilian casualties.

The UN last week said civilian casualties rose to a record high in the first half of 2016, with children in particular paying a heavy price as the conflict escalates.

Between January and June, 1,601 civilians were killed and 3,565 were wounded — a four percent increase in casualties compared to the same period last year, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said.

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Monday’s assault illustrates the report’s finding that suicide bombings and complex attacks are now hurting more civilians than roadside bombs.


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Trump’s racism is ‘disqualifying’ for him to remain as president: former White House lawyer

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Former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal explained on MSNBC on Thursday why he viewed President Donald Trump's racist attacks on four women of color in Congress as disqualifying.

Anchor Brian Williams read a quote from Susan Glasser of The New Yorker.

"Half of the country is appalled but not really sure how to combat him; the other half is cheering, or at least averting its gaze. This is what a political civil war looks like, with words, for now, as weapons," Glasser wrote.

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Lawrence O’Donnell reports on the growing movement for the impeachment of President Donald Trump

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Anchor Lawrence O'Donnell reported on the growing movement for the impeachment of President Donald Trump during Thursday evening's "The Last Word" on MSNBC.

"The House of Representatives conducted a symbolic vote on a hastily written impeachment resolution by Democratic Congressman Al Green in reaction to the president’s tweeted comments that the House of Representatives voted to condemn as racist," O'Donnell reported. "The impeachment resolution had nothing to do with the [Robert] Mueller investigation and referred only to the president being unfit for office because of the language that he has used recently about members of Congress and immigrants and asylum seekers."

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Video proves how far the Trump’s GOP has gone from the era of Ronald Reagan and HW Bush

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The immigration policies of Donald Trump’s presidency would have no room for his GOP predecessors Ronald Reagan or George H.W. Bush—who both embraced work visas, family unification, easy border crossings and a better relationship with Mexico.

That counterpoint can be seen in a very short video clip from the 1980 presidential election where Reagan and Bush—who became Reagan’s vice president for two terms before winning the presidency in 1988—were asked about immigration at a campaign debate in Texas. Their responses show just how far to the right the Republican Party’s current leader, President Trump, and voters who have not left the GOP to become self-described political independents, have moved on immigration.

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