Taliban suicide bombers targeted guesthouses in the heart of Kabul on Friday, killing at least 16 people. Nine Indian nationals, a French film-maker and an Italian diplomat were confirmed killed in the blast as well as several police.
AFP - Taliban suicide bombers targeted guesthouses in downtown Kabul on Friday, killing 16 people including Westerners and Indians in one of the deadliest attacks on foreigners in the Afghan capital.
The Islamist militia, which is waging a bitter insurgency against the US-backed Afghan government and more than 121,000 foreign troops based in the country, claimed responsibility for the attack in a telephone call to AFP.
A car bomb exploded and two smaller blasts resounded over downtown Kabul, heralding what police called a "well-planned and coordinated attack" soon after dawn as Afghanistan commemorated the birth of the Muslim prophet Mohammed.
The attacks killed 16 people, including an Italian diplomatic adviser and a French film maker who helped set up a studio for young Afghan directors, officials said. Another 38 people, including eight foreigners, were wounded.
New Delhi confirmed that nine Indians, including government officials, also died in the third assault on Indian interests in Afghanistan in 20 months.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai "condemned in the strongest terms the terrorist attack in Kabul's Shar-I-Naw area that killed and injured many civilians," his office said.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the first foreign head of government to condemn the bombings, was to speak to Karzai later Friday.
The assault took place near the Park Residence Hotel in the Shar-I-Naw commercial district, where terrified people escaped through windows and climbed down scaffolding, said an AFP photographer and a reporter.
Shattered glass carpeted the road outside the hotel, frequented by Westerners and where many employees come from India. AFP reporters saw at least four bodies, including one in a police uniform, brought out of the building.
At least three attackers armed with guns and explosives targeted the Park Residence and the smaller Aria guesthouse on a nearby side street.
"The first explosion took place in front of the Aria... targeting mostly doctors. Subsequently two terrorists, one wearing a suicide vest, entered the Park Residence," said Kabul police chief General Abdul Rahman Rahman.
After a shootout with the attackers, police stormed into a room where one bomber detonated his explosives, killing three police, Rahman said.
The second bomber was killed by police, he added.
Witnesses said the first explosion destroyed a car, threw the engine about 15 metres (yards) away, gouging out a huge crater in the road outside the Aria and spraying body parts around the site.
The Italian man was killed after giving information by telephone to Afghan police that enabled four other Italians to be evacuated to safety, police said.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said the dead man was a diplomatic adviser to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Attacks on guesthouses used by foreigners have increased in recent months. Five UN staff were killed in a similar assault on October 28. Eight people were killed in a suicide attack near a guesthouse and hotel on December 15.
Five Indians were among more than 60 people killed in a massive car bomb attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul on July 7, 2008.
Friday's assault was the worst attack in Kabul since thousands of US-led troops launched a major offensive to capture a key Taliban bastion in southern Afghanistan as part of a new strategy to end a war now in its ninth year.
NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen expressed outrage, while the UN mission in Kabul and the US and Canadian embassies also condemned the attacks.
A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahed, telephoned AFP to claim responsibility for the attack.
The assault came one day after the Afghan flag was raised over the town of Marjah, the focus of the offensive in southern Afghanistan.
Around 15,000 US, Afghan and NATO forces are pursuing Operation Mushtarak (Together), billed as the biggest military campaign since the 2001 US-led invasion brought down the Taliban regime.
The operation is aimed at seizing control of the Marjah and Nad Ali areas of Helmand from the Taliban and drug lords, in the first big test of US President Barack Obama's surge of thousands more troops.
Date created : 2010-02-26