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Attack on Save the Children charity in Jalalabad kills 5, injures more than 2 dozen

By CHAD GARLAND | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 24, 2018

KABUL, Afghanistan — Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack Wednesday on the international charity Save the Children, which left at least five victims dead and more than two dozen wounded after a gunbattle that lasted nearly 10 hours.

The charity, one of the largest relief organizations in Afghanistan, temporarily halted operations and shuttered its offices in the country, where it helps children and mothers, providing health care and education in 16 of the country’s 34 provinces.

The attack began with a suicide car bomb at the gate of the charity’s compound in the eastern city of Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province. Militants stormed the compound, leading to a gunbattle with security forces, said Attaullah Khogyani, spokesman for the provincial governor.

Three of the charity’s staff, one other civilian and an Afghan commando were among the dead, Pajhwok Afghan News, a local news agency, reported.

At least 24 others, including four aid workers and at least three security forces members, were injured — officials said most were treated for minor wounds at area hospitals and released.

Helle Thorning-Schmidt, chief executive of Save the Children International, told Al Jazeera that the charity’s three slain workers were parents of 10 children.

Of the attackers, Khogyani said, one was killed in the blast and four gunmen were killed in subsequent fighting, as security forces worked to free 46 people hiding in the office’s safe room, including 12 women.

On Twitter, photographs purportedly taken from nearby show children and adults fleeing after the attack began around 9 a.m. At least two schools are in the area.

The shooting subsided after eight hours and Khogyani said he thought it was over, but then the shooting picked up again. It finally ended two hours later, he said.

The Taliban immediately denied involvement. By evening, an ISIS affiliate that operates in the area had claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the group’s Aamaq news agency.

In recent months, U.S. and Afghan forces have been battling the ISIS affiliate in Nangarhar districts along the mountainous border with Pakistan.

London-based Save the Children issued a statement saying it would resume its work, which it said reaches nearly 1.4 million Afghan children, as soon as it was safe to do so.

“Our primary concern remains to secure the safety of all of our staff,” it said. “Afghanistan is one of the most difficult places in the world to be a child and for humanitarian workers to operate in.”

About 100 people work at the Jalalabad office, an official said.

The attack followed a deadly hourslong siege of a popular hotel in the Afghan capital over the weekend. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the Kabul attack, which left 22 people dead, mostly foreigners. The victims included “multiple U.S. fatalities,” according to the State Department, but exact numbers have not been provided.

Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.
garland.chad@stripes.com
Twitter: @chadgarland

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