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Explosion rocks German consulate in Afghanistan

An explosion has shaken the German consulate in Afghanistan, a NATO spokesman has said, with reports of a gun battle ensuing.

The blast happened in front of the building in the northern city of Mazari-i-Sharif - with the Taliban issuing a statement claiming they had sent suicide bombers to the consulate to carry out the attack.

Residents reported hearing a "huge explosion" which shattered windows in the surrounding buildings.

Walter Hassmann, the German ambassador to Afghanistan, said the "incident is ongoing" but would not confirm any further details.

There were no immediate reports of any casualties.

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Three held in Germany suspected of being on IS mission

A raid took place at a property in the town of Reinfeld in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein. Credit: RTV

Three Syrian men arrested in Germany are "strongly suspected" of having been sent to the country by Islamic State to prepare for a terrorist attack and may have links to last year's Paris attackers.

German federal prosecutors believe the trio were dispatched to Germany in November 2015 "either to carry out a mission that they had been informed about or to wait for further instructions".

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere later said the suspects may be a "sleeper cell" with connections to the group of men who attacked the French capital in November last year.

Pre-dawn raids were conducted in six locations across two German states. Credit: RTV

Mr Maiziere said the men had fake passports made in the "same workshop" as the Paris attackers and journeyed from Syria to Europe through the same migrant trafficking network with mobiles and US dollars.

The men, aged from 17 to 26, were arrested by special forces in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony, with support from 200 federal and local police. Their flats were also searched.

The prosecutors gave no information on a suspected attack target and said: "Concrete missions or orders have not so far been found."

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