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Suicide bomber, gunmen attack Save the Children office in Afghanistan

© Noorullah Shirzada, AFP | An Afghan man flees with two children near Save the Children office during an ongoing attack in Jalalabad on January 24, 2018.

Video by Bilal SARWARY

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2018-01-24

At least two people were killed and 14 others injured in a coordinated attack on the Save the Children office in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad Wednesday. The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the attack.

The attack started with a suicide car bombing at the entrance to the Save the Children compound during the morning rush hour. A group of gunmen then entered the compound and engaged in a gunfight with Afghan special forces who arrived at the scene shortly after the attack began.

At least two people – a civilian and a police officer -- were killed and 14 others wounded in the attack. The militant casualties included one suicide bomber and another insurgent killed by police, according to an Afghan official.

At least one person was killed and 14 others wounded in the attack, according to a Jalalabad hospital official.

Reporting from the Afghan capital of Kabul for FRANCE 24, Bilal Sarwary said a video shared with him by an Afghan security sources commander clearly showed the security forces, “trying to engage the attackers from another house, from another rooftop. This is a very difficult area because we’re talking about residential homes, many other government offices and at least two schools in the area.”

The attackers were well-armed and their operation appeared coordinated, according to Sarwary. “Afghan police have said the attackers have rocket propelled grenades, heavy machine guns and also hand grenades that they’re tossing them at the Afghan national security forces. The attackers have a launching pad, they’re much higher up. So it’s an operation with a lot of complications and complexities.”

The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement released by the group’s Amaq news agency.

Earlier Wednesday, a Taliban spokesman who uses the nom de guerre, Zabihullah Mujahid, denied the group’s involvement in the attack in a Twitter post.

Jalalabad is the capital of Nangarhar province situated near the Pakistani border and is often targeted by the Taliban. The area has also seen an IS group presence over the past few years.

Meanwhile the British-based NGO Save the Children has announced that the organisation was temporarily suspending operations in Afghanistan due to the security situation.

‘I jumped out of the window’

Mohammad Amin, who was inside the compound when the attackers stormed inside, told AFP from his hospital bed that he heard "a big blast".

"We ran for cover and I saw a gunman hitting the main gate with an RPG (rocket propelled grenade) to enter the compound. I jumped out of the window," Amin said.

Thick plumes of smoke were seen rising from the Save the Children office, which is located in an area that is home to several international aid organisations.

Images posted on Twitter showed panicked children fleeing the scene of the attack.

Attacks target international aid groups

The attack on Save the Children is the latest violence to strike an international NGO in war-torn Afghanistan.

The International Committee of the Red Cross announced in October it would "drastically" reduce its presence in the country after seven employees were killed in attacks last year.

The decision by the charity, which has been working in Afghanistan for over three decades, underlined the growing dangers for aid workers, who have increasingly become casualties of a surge in militant violence in recent years.

British Ambassador to Afghanistan Nick Kay called the attack “an outrage” in a Twitter post. “Any attack on children & humanitarians is a crime against humanity. I hope for a quick and safe end to this horrific incident.”

US and Afghan forces have been carrying out ground and air operations against IS group fighters in Nangarhar.

While Afghan security forces are conducting most of the fighting against the IS group and Taliban militants, US troops operate alongside them in a training capacity and are frequently on the front lines.

The attack comes days after Taliban gunmen raided a luxury hotel in Kabul, killing at least 22 people, mostly foreigners.

The last major attack in Jalalabad was on December 31 when an explosion at a funeral killed 18 mourners and wounded another 13. There was no claim of responsibility.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2018-01-24

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