Taliban claim responsibility for siege of Kabul aid office
September 6, 2016
KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban have claimed responsibility for an overnight raid that ended early Tuesday when police killed three attackers who had seized the offices of an aid organization in a residential and business area of the Afghan capital.
The attack came just hours after a double bombing near the Defense Ministry that the insurgents also claimed. Officials on Tuesday said the toll of the earlier twin bombings had risen to 35 dead and more than 100 wounded.
Hours later, shortly after 11 p.m., a suicide car bomb exploded in Kabul’s Shahr-e-Naw neighborhood outside the compound of CARE International, a nonprofit with programs in education, women’s empowerment, rural development and emergency response. Three gunmen then raided the compound. They were killed about 10 a.m., after a firefight and blast, said Faraidon Obaidi, head of criminal investigations for the Kabul police.
“Our priority was to evacuate the civilians from the scene and surrounding houses; that is why the operation went slow,” Obaidi said. More than 40 people were evacuated, he said.
“Once all the civilians were taken out, our security forces started their operation, and in a short period of time all of the attackers were killed,” he said. No police were harmed, he said.
Besides the three attackers killed, casualties included one dead and at least six injured, Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said on Twitter. Obaidi confirmed that six civilians were injured, but he said four were treated and sent home.
There was no immediate information on who was killed. CARE International said in a statement that all of its staff members in Afghanistan had been evacuated and were safe. The organization said it believed the intended target was a neighboring government building.
Late Tuesday, the Taliban confirmed that they had been behind the attack. In an online statement, spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the target was a “secret intelligence center of foreign forces to which (officials) had given the fake name of guest house.”
Mujahid said the building was used by security forces to plot attacks against the insurgent group and had been under surveillance for three months.
The initial blast Monday night caused a brief blackout in the area, which is home to several guest houses where foreigners and diplomats reside. Eyewitnesses reported billowing smoke and some tracer fire.
Police, including special, quick-reaction teams, responded to the attack within minutes. Roads in the area were closed overnight, and police cut power to the area. The streets in Shahr-e-Naw were opened later Tuesday morning but remained quiet.
Local media published photos showing a deep crater in the dirt road where the attack occurred and nearby sidewalks covered with glass shards from storefront windows blown out from the explosion.
Less than two weeks earlier, a trio raided the campus of American University in Afghanistan in western Kabul in a similar attack and overnight standoff, which left at least 13 dead and dozens injured. The attack shuttered both the university and the neighboring vocational school for the blind, where windows were shattered and the metal roof was crumpled from a car bomb.
No one has claimed responsibility for that attack, which came days after two of the university’s professors, one American and one Australian, were kidnapped in front of the campus. Their whereabouts are still unknown.
The rash of attacks, several on heavily protected areas, comes at a precarious time in the Afghan capital, amid a faltering economy, rising crime — including kidnappings for ransom — and escalating political tensions.
In a statement released after the latest attacks, the Defense Ministry accused insurgents of “trying to spread terror during the holy days of Eid al-Adha,” which begins next week.
Also next week are two significant milestones for the war in Afghanistan — the 15-year anniversaries of both the slaying of Ahmad Shah Massoud, an Afghan political and military leader who fought the Taliban in the late 1990s until his death in 2001, and the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon days later, which brought about the U.S.-led effort that toppled the Taliban.
The insurgent group has been waging its battle against the Western-backed Kabul government since its ouster.
On Twitter, Mohammad Ayub Salangi, a former deputy interior minister, said the mother of one of the victims, Maj. Ahmad Shaheed, died Tuesday after learning of her son’s death. Two more of her sons had already been killed while serving their country.
Gen. Mohammad Radmanish, deputy spokesman for the Defense Ministry, said 18 ministry employees were wounded and five were killed, including Brig. Gen. Abdul Razaq, deputy chief of the ministry’s support brigade.
Obaidi blamed the latest attack on Pakistan. Afghan officials frequently accuse the neighboring country of harboring Taliban fighters and aiding them in plotting deadly attacks on Afghans.
“The enemy of peace and stability of the Afghan people under the orders of foreign intelligence tries to disrupt the security, but many such attacks were foiled,” Obaidi said.
Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.