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KABUL — Taliban militants attacked the residence of an American charity and a nearby day-care center Friday in Kabul, sending foreigners — including women and children — fleeing while Afghan security forces battled the gunmen holed up in the building.

An Afghan girl and a driver were killed in the crossfire, officials said.

An uptick in bold attacks on foreigners in the Afghan capital suggests the Taliban are shifting tactics to focus on civilian targets that are not as heavily protected as military and government installations, as part of an overall surge in violence ahead of April 5 elections.

It also appears aimed at sending a message that the United States and its allies aren’t wanted as the Obama administration presses the Afghan government to sign a security agreement that would allow thousands of international troops to stay after the NATO-mandated combat mission ends in December.

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The assault Friday evening began in a way typical for the Taliban, which claimed responsibility in a statement. A suicide car bomber detonated his explosives in front of the four-story building housing workers with the California-based Roots of Peace, then four gunmen rushed into the compound.

Roots of Peace said the organization’s guards pursued the attackers into the house and killed two of them, while four foreigners took cover inside.

Associated Press