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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Taliban Attack US Aid Organization

KABUL, July 2:  Six suicide bombers stormed the compound of a US organisation in northern Afghanistan before dawn on Friday, killing at least four people and wounding several others, officials said. At least two of the dead were foreigners.

The brazen attack came on the same day that Gen David Petraeus landed in the Afghan capital to take command of US and international forces fighting the nearly nine-year-old war.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which began at about 3.30am in Kunduz when a suicide car bomber blew a hole in the wall around a building used by Development Alternatives Inc, a Washington-based global consulting company on contract with the US Agency for International Development, or USAID. The company is working on governance and community development in the area.

At least five other attackers then ran inside the building, killing or wounding security guards and others inside before dying in a gunbattle with Afghan security forces who rushed to the scene. Afghan authorities said the five were all wearing explosive vests.

Black smoke poured from the windows of the four-storey building. The bodies of the victims were found inside amid rubble, pools of blood and broken glass. Stunned aid workers were led from the scene as Nato troops carried bodies wrapped in black plastic out on stretchers.

Gen Abdul Razaq Yaqoubi, police chief in Kunduz province, said those killed included an Afghan policeman, an Afghan man who worked as a security guard at the house and two foreigners. The German foreign ministry said a German citizen was killed in the attack. Britain’s foreign ministry said one British national was killed and the other was critically wounded in the attack.

“It was 3 in the morning, close to the morning prayer time, when a suicide bomber in a 4x4 vehicle exploded his vehicle,” Gen Yaqoubi said as Afghan national security forces were battling to kill the last surviving attacker. “There is no way for him to escape.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in Kabul that six suicide bombers attacked a “training centre” for Afghan security forces in Kunduz and killed 55 foreigners.

The attack appeared part of a Taliban campaign against development projects at a time when the US and its allies are trying to bolster civilian programmes to shore up the Afghan government. On Wednesday, militants rocketed a base for South Korean construction workers in Parwan province but caused no casualties.

In April, a gunman killed an 18-year-old woman working for Development Alternatives as she left her job in the southern city of Kandahar. Police believed the killing was part of a Taliban campaign against Afghans working for foreign development organisations.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack and called on government authorities to investigate and prosecute those responsible. He said the militants were trying to impede reconstruction in Afghanistan.

“They don’t want the people of Afghanistan to have a prosperous life,” he said in a statement.

The US also condemned the attack, calling it a cowardly assault on civilians working to improve conditions in the nation. “This is another tragic reminder of the life-threatening circumstances that our Afghan and international partners face every day as they work side by side with the Afghan government and its people to improve conditions in the country for a better future,” said a statement issued by USAID and the US Embassy.

Separately, Nato on Friday reported the deaths of two coalition service members. One was an American who died on Friday in a militant attack in eastern Afghanistan. The other was a Royal Marine who died on Thursday in southern Afghanistan, according to Britain’s ministry of defence.—AP

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