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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Karzai Seeks Talks with Taliban

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai renewed a call for talks with Taliban insurgents Sunday, shortly after a security scare forced him to cut short a commemoration speech when gunshots were fired outside the venue.

Afghan state television showed Karzai, who has survived several assassination attempts by suspected Taliban members, being led away unharmed from Kabul's packed sports arena by his U.S.-trained bodyguards as spectators lay flat in the stands.

A government official told the audience to be calm, saying that what they had heard were not gunshots but stones being thrown by people who could not get into the heavily guarded arena.

A defense ministry spokesman said, however, that shots had been fired outside the stadium, though he did not know by whom or whether there were any casualties.

Some witnesses said police had fired into the air to disperse those who wanted to force their way into the stadium, but there was no word of any casualties.

The ceremony was held to mark the sixth anniversary of the assassination of anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Masood in 2001 by a suspected al-Qaida suicide bomber, two days before the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

An estimated 25,000 people, including Cabinet members and foreign diplomats, had gathered at the stadium, which is not far from the presidential palace.