KABUL — Insurgents stormed an American-run guesthouse in an upscale neighborhood of Kabul on Friday — the third attack in the Afghan capital in the last 10 days.
There was no word on casualties among residents of the guesthouse, operated by Roots of Peace, a non-governmental organization involved in removing land mines and agricultural projects. Two police officers were lightly injured, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish.
The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying the attack was aimed against a guesthouse that also operated a church. Just a week before Afghans go to the polls to elect a new president, the insurgents appear to be stepping up their campaign to disrupt the ballot.
Attackers detonated a bomb outside the gate before entering the compound, Danish said. Gunfire could be heard in the area two hours after the initial blast. The Interior Ministry later confirmed that the siege was over, but said nothing about casualties among the occupants of the building.
The Associated Press quoted Deputy Interior Minister Mohammed Ayub Salangi as saying that four suicide bombers armed with assault rifles and hand grenades had attacked the compound.
The latest attack comes just three days after gunmen killed five people in an attack on Afghanistan’s election commission offices, also in the western section of the capital. On March 20, four insurgents entered Kabul’s luxurious Serena hotel, one of the most heavily guarded private facilities in the city, killing nine people before they were gunned down. That assault followed the January bombing of a Lebanese restaurant favored by foreigners and the daylight assassination of a Swedish journalist on a street in one of Kabul’s most secure neighborhoods.
The election, which would mark the first democratic change of power in the country since the U.S. invasion in 2001, is seen as crucial to Afghanistan’s future. Hamid Karzai, who has been president since the invasion, is constitutionally barred from running for re-election.
The recent attacks have shaken the feeling of relative safety in Kabul, which has been largely insulated from the violence in the rest of the country over the past 12 years of war. Even before the attacks, many non-governmental organizations had temporarily pulled their staffs from Afghanistan in anticipation of pre-election violence.