Taliban militants have attacked a guesthouse in the Afghanistan capital Kabul used by a US-based aid group. Officials have confirmed an Afghan child was killed during the incident.
As many as five Taliban fighters on Friday attacked a guesthouse used by foreigners in the Karte She neighborhood, west of Kabul city, killing two people. Police said the militants fought people inside and security forces surrounding the building, which also houses a small church. The siege lasted several hours before Afghan security forces killed the last remaining Taliban fighter inside.
Roots for Peace, which works to replace minefields with vineyards, said several of its foreign staff were in the building at the time of the attack, but were able to escape. The aid agency's country director, Sharif Osmani, said three Afghan citizens had been injured in the attack.
One of the attackers blew himself up at the entrance of the building, killing the child and allowing the other three to storm the premises. A man sitting nearby in his car was also killed, according to several news agencies.
"One small girl was martyred in the first explosion, one guard was injured," Deputy Interior Minister Mohammed Ayoub Salangi wrote on Twitter.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying they were targeting the church.
"A group of mujahedeen stormed a building, apparently [a] foreigners' residence, but in fact a church inviting Afghans to Christianity," said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.
Violence spike ahead of elections
Friday's attack comes ahead of Afghanistan's presidential election on April 5 to choose a successor to outgoing President Hamid Karzai. The country of 30 million has seen increasing violence in the lead-up to the vote.
Suicide bombers and gunmen on Tuesday attacked an election commission office in Kabul. Last week, nine people, including a journalist for news agency AFP and an election observer, were killed in an attack on a highly fortified hotel.
The spike in violence has raised concern about foreign aid groups' willingness to support Afghanistan's government following the withdrawal of NATO troops, to be completed by the end of this year.
dr/ph (dpa, Reuters, AFP, AP)