Kabul aid groups reel after nine killed in Taliban attack

Kabul (AFP) –


Humanitarian groups were reeling Thursday from yet another attack targeting aid workers in Afghanistan, as officials confirmed nine people had been killed in a Taliban attack in Kabul a day earlier.

Wednesday's attack outside Counterpart International, a non-profit group working with marginalised people in Afghanistan, began with an immense blast from a car bomb in a busy commercial area in central Kabul.

Interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said the death toll had risen to nine, including five members of the Afghan security forces, a guard at Counterpoint and three civilians.

Anti-poverty group CARE, which has offices close to Counterpart International, said three of its workers -- a driver, a watchman and a technical advisor -- were killed in the blast.

"This attack reflects the increasing dangers of humanitarian work in conflict-affected countries such as Afghanistan and the unfortunate daily reality of violence for many Afghan families," CARE said in a statement.

In addition, 20 civilians were wounded in the attack, which saw several Taliban gunmen storm the Counterpoint compound after the blast. They were all killed after Afghan commandos led an hours-long clearance operation.

Wednesday's massive explosion felled trees and toppled dense concrete blast walls on the street outside Counterpart.

The blast radius extended hundreds of metres (yards) in all directions, blowing out windows in nearby homes and businesses.

Dozens of workers could be seen sweeping debris and broken glass from streets in the popular Shahr-e-Naw neighbourhood in central Kabul, which is home to shops, restaurants and hotels.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying Counterpart International was targeted because it promoted the "inter-mixing" of men and women.

Insurgent spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Twitter the aid group had mentored "Kabul admin workers in various aspects of brutality, oppression, terror, anti-Islamic ideology & promotion of western culture."

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 30 aid workers were killed last year in Afghanistan -- one of the most dangerous countries for humanitarians.

Afghanistan was once a hub of foreign aid but deteriorating security has seen international groups downgrade their presence, making it even more difficult to deliver crucial help to the war-torn country's most vulnerable citizens.

Several aid groups, including Save the Children, have been the target of terror attacks and have suspended operations in the wake of the assaults.

Wednesday's attack came even as US and Taliban officials were meeting in Qatar for peace talks.