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At least 1 killed in Kabul restaurant attack; Taliban claim responsibility

By HEATH DRUZIN AND ZUBAIR BABAKARKHAIL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 1, 2016

KABUL, Afghanistan — An explosion shook central Kabul Friday, part of a deadly attack on a restaurant popular with expats and wealthy Afghans, officials said.

The blast occurred about 5 p.m. on New Year’s Day, when a suicide car bomb detonated at the gate to Le Jardin, an upscale French restaurant in central Kabul, Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said. At least one person - a 12-year-old child – was killed, and more than a dozen others had non-life-threatening injuries, said Luca Radaelli, spokesman for the Emergency Hospital.

Initial reports were that attackers entered the restaurant compound after the explosion, but later police said it was unclear whether attackers or any bystanders were still inside. Police had detained one suspect and were preparing to conduct a sweep of the restaurant, Sediqqi said. Afghan broadcaster Tolo News reported that a second person had been killed in the attack.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in a post on their website that a number of attackers with suicide vests had stormed a guesthouse for foreigners.

The restaurant, located in Kabul’s Taimani neighborhood, doubled as a guesthouse, offering rooms for rent.

A witness said the blast shattered windows throughout the restaurant’s vicinity.

Le Jardin has tighter security than many establishments catering to expats. It’s one of the last restaurants in Kabul that foreigners frequent. Many expats became more circumspect in their movements after 21 people were massacred at a Lebanese restaurant in Kabul in January 2014.

Friday’s attack was the second to hit the capital in a week. On Monday, a Taliban suicide attack killed one civilian and injured more than 30, 18 of them children studying at a nearby school.

The attack came a day after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced a new effort to restart peace talks with the Taliban. Representatives from Afghanistan, the United States, Pakistan and China will meet on Jan. 11 in Islamabad, Pakistan, to work out a framework for peace negotiations.

Violence has been rising as the U.S.-led international military coalition in Afghanistan has scaled down and focused more on training and advising the Afghan security forces. Resolute Support, as the NATO-led coalition is now known, is made up of roughly 13,000 troops. That’s down from a high of 130,000 coalition troops in 2012.

Afghan troops have taken over most of the day-to-day fighting since the United States declared an end to its combat mission in 2014. They have sometimes struggled, especially in the Taliban heartland of Helmand province, much of which is now under the militants’ control.

President Barack Obama has twice delayed the timeline for further withdrawal of U.S. troops because of what the Pentagon describes as a significant deterioration in the security situation in the past year.

druzin.heath@stripes.com
Twitter: @Druzin_Stripes
 

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