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MP, top Karzai aide feared killed: police official

By Hamid Shalizi

KABUL (Reuters) - Gunmen killed a top advisor to Afghan President Hamid Karzai and a member of the country's parliament in a residential district of Kabul on Sunday, just days after the president's brother was gunned down at home, officials said.

The spokesman for Kabul's police chief said two or three armed men started a gun battle around 8 o'clock at the house of Jan Mohammad Khan, a former governor of southern Uruzgan province and close aide to the president.

"The battle between gunmen and security forces is still going on," spokesman Hashmat Stanekzai said, adding that the attack began around 8.00 pm local time (11:30 a.m. ET).

Lawmaker Hashim Watanwal was also killed, said Stanekzai and Obaidullah Barekzai, a member of parliament from Uruzgan province who had seen the bodies of both men being brought out.

Hours after the attack began, gunfire could still be heard in western Karte Seh district, home to the country's parliament, many Afghan politicians and media and some embassies.

There was a heavy presence of security troops in the area and the streets leading to Khan's home were cordoned off.

The attack came on the day that Afghanistan began a long-promised transition to control of its own security, but the process kicked off in the relatively peaceful central province of Bamiyan, half a day's drive from Kabul.

A surge of U.S. troops has helped improve security in the south of the country over the last year, but there has been spreading insecurity in once peaceful northern areas, fiercer fighting in the east and record civilian casualties.

The first half of this year was the deadliest six months for civilians in the last decade of conflict, with nearly 1,500 killed, the United Nations said in a recent report.

(Writing by Emma Graham-Harrison, editing by Myra MacDonald)

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